HOPE Executive Vice President, Dr. Michael Maves, and I, are in the Dominican Republic meeting with the Dominican Minister of Health, USAID-Dominican Republic, and the Order of Malta Dominican Republic Ambassador and senior leadership – all to support and enhance HOPE’s current long-standing relationships in the country.
We are also visiting one of HOPE’s signature programs, the Monte Plata and Herrera health clinics, located in Monte Plata and Santo Domingo, respectively.Project HOPE will soon place U.S. health care volunteers into Monte Plata to help build capacity at the clinics as well as further our core mission as a health education and training NGO. Project HOPE-Dominican Republic will be the site for the inaugural Dr. Charles A. Sanders/Project HOPE International Residency Scholarship Program, which will place a senior physician resident from one of four North Carolina medical schools into the clinic for training and clinical patient care.
Project HOPE’s clinics in the Dominican lead the way with the “5 Star Program,” a Ministry of Health-approved and nationally recognized program developed as an innovative strategy to promote patient awareness and compliance during pregnancy. The HOPE program serves a population of nearly 500,000 (approximately 5% of the country) and focuses on five essential services that pregnant women must know about and receive (tetanus toxoid immunization, HIV/AIDS/STI testing, laboratory tests [including blood, urine, sonogram, dental exam), over the course of at least five prenatal examinations and a post-natal visit within seven days of delivery. The pregnant mother is awarded a star for each of these key services, noted in her patient chart. After acquiring all five stars, she is classified as a VIP (Very Important Person) and recognized publicly by the community. The 5 Star Program can be summarized as being an inexpensive way to improve care quality that is easy to monitor; an excellent way to educate pregnant women, mothers and the community at-large on a vitally important subject; and an effective means to empower and motivate mothers to serve as role models for others.
Monte Plata first opened in August 2003 and is now one of the most respected women’s and children’s health clinics in the country. It offers a variety of services, from obstetric and gynecological consultation, ultrasound, lab, dental, HIV/AIDS testing and counseling, to immunizations. The rural clinic averages around 13,000 patients per year and over 90,000 clinic visits. The clinic is complemented with a staff of 31 dedicated, highly skilled Dominican providers. Dr. Eleazar Peña, a Ministry of Health OB-GYN assigned to Monte Plata, sees on average, 40 women a day. “We are doing a wonderful job here at Monte Plata,” Peña says. “I’m so proud to be a part of this clinic. We sacrifice so much and probably spend more time here than with our own families. But, remember, this is also our family. While we do give so much to those in need, we all know we can give more and we strive daily to do that.” One of Dr. Peña’s patients, 40-year old Ms. Floirian el la Cruz Reyes, drove over an hour and a half from the town of Nagua to see him for a consultation and made sure she arrived two hours before the clinic opened to get a favorable spot in line. Ms. Reyes said, “I came from a very far distance because I want the very best service. The province is so proud and grateful to the Monte Plata clinic.”
Another mother, Ms. Norice Reya, also drove over two hours from the district of Campo Gonzalo to bring her son, Leon Omar, aged 3, to receive care for his cold because she “simply wants the best care for my son.”
The trip to Monte Plata began with a warm greeting from the patron and recognized leader of the community, Mr. Cesar Contreras and his wife, Francia. Don Cesar Contreras is also the generous donor of the land for the Monte Plata clinic and keeps a watchful eye on his proud achievement.After a wonderful two days spent touring the clinic and confirming the site for future HOPE volunteers, the leadership team departed with a greater understanding of not only inherent challenges and complexities, but also of the extraordinary skill and dedication of the staff, and the overall importance and community pride in the Monte Plata clinic.As the director of the program and Project HOPE’s Country Director, Ms. Teresa Narvaez, stated, “This is the community's clinic. They have pride in ownership and it is a piece of all of us.”
The next stop is Port au Prince, Haiti!
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