In the late 1990s, Ecuador suffered from an extremely weak government with one of the worst financial systems in Latin America. The healthcare provided was that of the middle ages with costs that were never to be met by the monthly salary of $210.00 per citizen. The system was failing and with unemployment at over 10% of the population and 20% at poverty level, people were faced with little to no solution.
In 2000 Rafael Correa took office and in the first years, although hit with crisis after crisis, established one of the strongest healthcare systems of the continent. At the start, there were so few hospitals and medical care providers that patients were receiving the level of care one would have in an extremely rural clinic in the major city of Quito. Due to these measures, Correa invested over $2,000 million into the healthcare budget and commissioned 18 new hospitals in major cities along with 250 healthcare centres and health clinics in rural villages nationwide.
Since these changes, locals describe all care to be equal across the country, whether they are visiting a rural village clinic or a major hospital in Quito. The care will be nearly the same quality with only a difference in the availability of specialists in the small facilities.
Changes to the healthcare system are also reflected by the levels of coverage. The system is broken down into four parts; private, public, social care and no coverage. Those with private care are the working class; this care is provided under a purchased insurance plan. In addition to the private system, there is the Social Care system, which is similar to the Social Security system of the United States. This system applies to citizens that have applied portions of their income for a duration of time to the government care plan, which allows for a coverage in healthcare. The public system is free to everyone who has been denied care; in most cases, this is for those with a terminal illness, over the age of 60, under the age of 10 and impoverished.
PMGY Volunteers are going to apply their time in a public hospital in Quito. The project takes place in one of the few care centres offering free healthcare for the people in and around the capital. The hospital provides volunteers with the opportunity to join on 8 different wards including internal medicine (speciality departments), paediatrics, gynaecology, occupational therapy, trauma, out-patient and surgery consult department.
The hospital is very happy to have university students and medical volunteers, but they take the position quite seriously. Volunteers on this project are not required to have any medical education, but should have some form of experience whether in a community care setting or clinical volunteering hours. The minimum time in any department will be 2 weeks and the ward will be assigned based on your level of Spanish, (these factors can be considered if volunteers are joining for 3- weeks and/or receiving Spanish classes). The recommended time for this medical project is 4+ weeks to properly apply yourself in the listed departments.
Please be aware that care provisions may not meet the autonomy or standards of your home country. In Latin America volunteers may encounter situations where locals have been victims of domestic violence and/or other forms of physical assault. We ask that those on this programme keep an open mind and prepare for different experiences than they may encounter within their medical studies at home.
Your level of involvement at the project is dictated by medical experience, duration of programme and willingness to get involved. The medical staff are accountable for you whilst you’re under their supervision, so it is completely up to them if you are permitted and want to get involved in hands-on procedures. Whilst previous PMGY volunteers have been given the chance to administer IV injections, dress wounds etc, we can never guarantee or promote hands-on involvement for participants regardless of their medical experience or background.
Is it safe to travel to PMGY destinations?
Although our volunteers work in the developing world, we always ensure our host locations are safe. Each programme has been extensively researched and has passed our strict vetting process. Our UK team undergo an extensive routine when establishing our in-country infrastructures and we continue to monitor our safety procedures on a regular basis. Furthermore, we monitor the stability of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis. Through our constant contact with consulates and embassies and our reports from our overseas teams, we are able to ensure that our volunteers are never placed in unstable regions.
The PMGY team have visited and participated in every programme we offer and verified them based on our own independent criteria. We carefully inspect every little detail of our set-up. From inspecting the living conditions, checking out the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, to tasting the food you’ll be eating – each and every programme we establish has gone through a lengthy and rigorous vetting process. Risk assessments have been written for all areas in which PMGY operate and our experienced local coordinators are always on-hand to manage any emergencies that may occur. Our UK team are always on the road reviewing our risk management procedures in the field and monitoring local conditions.
In emergency situations we have the necessary protocols and equipment in place and we are able to evacuate our volunteers from potential dangers. Our local coordinators are trained to deal with emergency circumstances.