Posted by: calloftheandes | August 19, 2011

Charity Funds Put Healthcare Within Reach

The sound of the cough alone tells of the ailing lungs of Manuel Jesús Arévalo as he quietly tosses the bloodied tissue into his hospital wastebasket. Then he returns to studying the Bible that lies open before him.

Manuel Jesús Arévalo

It was the World Day of the Fight Against Tuberculosis, and this is the scene that greeted Dr. Richard Douce, medical director of HCJB Global Hands’ Hospital Vozandes-Quito (HVQ), in Ecuador’s capital.

Years earlier, Douce successfully treated Arévalo for multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. The disease’s advance was halted, but its effects were irreversible. Arévalo’s damaged lungs carried limited oxygen to his body. His vulnerability to illness was acute. Even this newest malady of pneumonia could have proven fatal, and he had no guarantees of living past his 61st year.

His spirits, however, were high as he told of God’s grace in his life (see sidebar on page 4). Arévalo’s physical health and spiritual well-being had taken divergent paths years before. He had contracted TB while he was an inmate in a penitentiary. During this time Arévalo entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A biblical passage seems appropriate: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

When Arévalo later fell ill again, he returned to HVQ and to Douce’s care, arriving in Quito with an oxygen level that was dangerously low. His hospital bill ran upwards of US$1,000. Money is tight for the former farm laborer, so after his family paid a portion, the hospital’s Charity Fund picked up the rest of Arévalo’s costs.

Dr. Richard Douce with Manuel Jesús Arévalo

The process works this way: As care is provided, hospital social workers interview family members about their ability to help cover patient costs. Some cases are decided by the social workers; others are referred to a committee that consists of a social worker, a community member, a chaplain, a financial manager and physicians. The committee decides on a discount on the patient’s hospital bills.

In the decades since an albergue (overnight shelter) was established in 1950 by HCJB Global physician Dr. Paul Roberts, an effort to provide indigenous Ecuadorians with affordable care has continued. The ensuing decades have added Hospital Vozandes-Shell (known in Ecuador as Hospital Vozandes del Oriente or HVO) and mobile medical clinics into underserved areas, and satellite clinics in the greater Quito area.

The Charity Fund of the hospital in Quito is financed largely by the Ecuadorian physicians who practice at the hospital. At the hospital in Shell, however, the charity fund operates differently.

“All of our physicians are missionaries so we don’t really have an honorarium fund,” said Steve Wilson, who has directed HVO since March 2010. “Virtually all of our funding for the Charity Fund comes from outside donors,” he explained. “We gave out about $69,000 in aid in 2010—an average of about $220 per [Charity Fund] patient.”

While this financial assistance may set HVO apart from other area hospitals, it’s not the only distinctive. As with HVQ, the jungle hospital in Shell integrates spiritual counsel into patient care. A chaplain or chaplain’s assistant meets with every inpatient, and evangelistic work is done with those in the waiting areas.

“Our chaplains build relationships with local churches to do follow-up,” added Wilson, acknowledging the need to nourish a believer’s newfound faith, providing doctrinal teaching and personal counseling. Last year the HVO Charity Fund extended financial assistance to 318 patients.

Two recent patients in Shell needing help are the young grandsons of HCJB Global employee Marta Aguinda. They came across “something like dynamite” near her house. In the ensuing explosion, one of the boys, Justin, 7, lost both his hands. His cousin, Arón, 5, was not as badly hurt. Like hundreds of others, they saw a significant portion of their bill covered by the HVO Charity Fund.

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