Dr. Silva and his nurse treating a child with clubfoot at the exclusive Hospital de los Valles in Ecuador, one of the few places where Ponseti treatment is currently available.
By Chesca Colloredo, Managing Director, miraclefeet
This year marked 20 years that my husband and I (and now our children) have traveled to Ecuador for his research as an anthropologist. Two decades ago the organization miraclefeet did not exist, so it’s very interesting that my work with them today is so pertinent throughout a country where clubfoot is so prevalent. This South American country that straddles the equator is in desperate need of clubfoot programs and I had the opportunity to meet with doctors and hospital administrators in its urban and rural centers during my six week stay.
First, it’s worth noting that although the healthcare system in Ecuador has come a long way in the past 20 years, it still needs work. The current government is providing free healthcare for all children with the eventual goal of universal healthcare for all Ecuadorians. Although great progress has been made, the healthcare system remains fragmented and under-funded.
On my visits to major hospitals like Hospital Baca Ortiz in Quito or Hospital Roberto Gilbert and Hospital Ycaza Bustamente in Guayaquil, there were long lines of people waiting to see a handful of doctors. Still the current political administration is paying more than lip service to healthcare provision and has moved all special needs or disability programming to the office of Vice President Lenín Boltaire Moreno Garcés who coincidentally uses a wheelchair due to a gunshot wound he suffered to the back in 1998. For the first time in the country’s history, the issues surrounding special needs or disabled individuals have been brought to the fore.
Even now, however, there needs to be widespread training and more awareness around clubfoot and correcting it using the Ponseti Method. At the Clubfoot Symposium in June at the Hospital de Roberto Gilbert Elizalde, our intern learned that although doctors knew about the Ponseti Method of treatment, it wasn’t widely used across the country. Dr. Torres from Hospital de Roberto Gilbert Elizalde informed us that he and four other doctors use the Ponseti Method in his hospital. I explained that our goal right now is to support the program in Dr. Torres’ hospital while also bringing programs at Hospital Baca Ortiz and other major public institutions on board. We were told pointblank that if Hospital Baca Ortiz came on board, the rest of the healthcare facilities would follow.
My travels also took me to smaller villages, but again, clubfoot treatment using the Ponseti Method was uncommon. Even wealthy families and patients were unfamiliar with the Ponseti Method and thus, there is great opportunity for miraclefeet to establish meaningful programs across Ecuador. All in all, my travels were successful as we received nods of support or proposed commitment from three major public metropolitan hospitals, University of San Francisco in Quito’s School of Public Health, Fundacion Hermano Miguel, Fundacion Vida Saludable and the Vice President’s Office. I even had the fortune of speaking with the Director of Operation Smile in Ecuador who was extremely supportive of miraclefeet’s work.
We intend to launch a miraclefeet Ecuador program in 2012 pending fundraising efforts, but if my Ecuadorian sojourn is any indication of the success we’ll experience, I know we’ll be able to give the gift of walking to the more than 300 children born in Ecuador each year with clubfoot, as well as the thousands who currently struggle to live with untreated clubfoot. Many thanks to everyone here stateside making a difference too…onward and upward!!