Doctor in Uruguay overcomes challenges to give good care - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Doctor in Uruguay overcomes challenges to give good care

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July 29, 2003

Montevideo, Uruguay- Dr. Patrick Pike is looking over x-rays, preparing for surgery at Uruguay's largest hospital. It's a job he's always wanted. "My grandfather was a surgeon, and I have no doubt," said Pike.

But it's not a job that's always easy. "For today we have equipment, but we never know." They never know when aging medical equipment will stop working or when their limited number of machines will all be in use. "It's not always that way, but when it happens, it's very difficult," Pike said.

Sometimes the hospital runs so low on supplies or just gets so full, they simply can't treat any more patients, and occassionally they have to close the doors and turn people away. "Yesterday we had to close our doors because of equipment, of course," said Pike.

Uruguay has an abundance of well-trained doctors. The country's Surgeon General says the problem is the economy. Dr. Diego Estol said, "It's a country where a society that used to be in a good situation now has to go backwards. I would imagine the whole population is impoverished in a way."

Uruguay is in a severe recession. Many people are out of work and have no insurance, but they have a constitutional right to full health care paid for by the government. "Up to three years back covered only 40 percent of the population, now is covering 60 percent of the population," said Dr. Estol.

Add the fact that hospitals have less money and the cost of importing supplies skyrocketed as the value of the peso plummeted, and Uruguay is depending on relief shipments. "It can mean the difference in being treated and not being treated," said Estol.

The humanitarian shipment to Dr. Pike's hospital--remember it's the biggest in the country--includes two portable x-ray machines. And that's a big deal. Pike explained, "we have one x-ray machine . . . for the whole hospital."

The other supplies and equipment delivered here will make his job a little easier. "Everything we can get, it's vital." Vital to doctors working hard under hard circumstances to bring hope and good health to people in need.

posted at 9:25 by ben.roberts@walb.com