Health center on wheels brings medical services to remote areas of Uruguay

By Santiago Carbone

Rivera, Uruguay, Sep 22 (EFE) .- A wheeled health center transformed into a bus travels early in the morning to various small towns in rural Uruguay, bringing ‘humanitarian medicine’ to more than 5,000 people.

Chatting, laughing and telling stories and jokes, the crew of Expreso Esperanza (Hope Express) sets out from this northern town across the border with the Brazilian town of Santana do Livramento en route to the one of more than twenty remote destinations they serve. .

Driving along roads where hills, fields and animals are visible amid the lush green landscape, medical professionals travel up to three hours to provide medical services to what one of their patients describes as their ” extended family “.

Between 2011 and 2021, Cuban family doctor Ivan Sotomayor was one of the professionals who traveled thousands of kilometers aboard Expreso Esperanza.

In an interview with Efe, he said these medical visits reach a part of Uruguay which is “really unknown to many” and where access to basic services is sorely lacking.

“We are talking about people who until recently had no electricity, who had never been to town, who had never been to the cinema,” Sotomayor said.

But he said major progress has been made with the plan, which is part of an initiative funded by the Japanese government to support grassroots human security projects in Uruguay.

He said it’s also gratifying when former patients who have moved from place to place over the years approach him to offer him a warm welcome.

Reflecting on his experience aboard Expreso Esperanza, Sotomayor said current and future doctors should know that there are many wonderful things to discover in Uruguay and that a hospital is not the only potential place to work. for a doctor or nurse.

“What is important is to value the human being and to always try to provide better care,” said the doctor.

Pablo Prestes, the current doctor on the bus, highlighted the unique experience of working in this way.

In his remarks to Efe, he said the goal is to improve the quality of life for every individual residing in these remote areas and underlined the friendship he and his colleagues develop with their patients.

“What I emphasize in the Expreso Esperanza team are our values ​​with humanitarian principles. That, in a sense, we stop seeing the patient with a certain disease and analyze their whole situation. We need to realize that health is not just the absence of disease, but rather bio-psychosocial well-being, ”he said.

Prestes said he never imagined after graduating from medical school that he would be working on a bus, but that the opportunity was very “rewarding”.

One of the more than 5,000 beneficiaries of the Japanese-funded program, Susana de Armas, echoed the doctors’ words.

A resident of the small northern town of Paso Ataques, which has only 100 people, she told Efe that the bus “is very important for all local residents.

She also highlighted the personalized attention offered by medical professionals, saying they go where they are needed no matter what.

“Whatever they can do, they do it with a lot of love. I hope that Expreso Esperanza will always be there,” said De Armas. “I hope that they will always be there for us because the care are really beautiful. They are already part of our family. EFE

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