Violence alters how Shriners run clinic in Juárez
By Maggie Ybarra \ for the compleat story go to the El Paso Times
JUAREZ -- Several hundred people used to flock to Hospital de la Familia from all over Mexico for the opportunity to see one of the U.S. doctors working at a two-day clinic that specializes in pediatric orthopedics.
But concerns about the drug war violence in Juárez have caused the clinic to require pre-approval before families travel to it for care.
On Friday, 160 children were invited by the Shriners Hospital for Children to receive medical attention for dislocated hips, club feet, scoliosis, missing limbs and hand deformities.
Kristine Ferguson, director of outpatient care coordination services, said the new application process was created because the hospital's board of directors is concerned that the violence in Juárez could endanger the doctors and their patients.
The new process requires the parents of a potential candidate to mail in an application describing their child's medical condition and needs rather than receiving a visual medical assessment at the clinic in Juárez. If an applicant is accepted into the program, his or her parents will be notified by phone, she said.
Doctors will continue to see children who have already been accepted into the orthopedic program. The new process does not affect them, Ferguson said.
"We are not seeing fewer children. We are not going to take fewer children," she said.
In fact, it could save families the expense of taking the long trek to Juárez only to be rejected because their children don't meet the program's criteria, she said.
Fernando Delgado, 42, said he and his wife, Rita Zubia, 40, are concerned that people who don't have access to the applications will miss out on the opportunity to receive free medical care for their children.
Delgado, a Mexican citizen, said he plans to help the clinic by distributing applications, helping people fill them out and allowing them to use his phone if they don't have one of their own.
"There's a lot of people who are completely unaware of the program, so our goal is to go into those small villages and inform people who don't know anything about it," he said. the change in the application process won't derail the clinic.
Delgado already takes time off of work to drive a bus, loaned to him by his employer at Lechería Zaragoza, to pick up children and their parents from all over Chihuahua.
He said he does this because the clinic accepted his four children, who are now ages 23, 22, 18, and 12, into the program. Before that, he and his wife had to sell their house, and the children had to drop out of school to help pay for their medical bills.
"We received such a gift," he said. "This is our responsibility -- to help the parents so that they don't go through what we went through."
"This is a mission that we all want to continue, and it's very, very important to us that we continue here," she said.
The quarterly clinic is made up of staff and volunteers from the Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City, Utah. It has been a fixture in the Juárez community for the past 25 years.
"We're working with a few less doctors than normal because family members have asked them not to come," because of the drug war, she said.
FEMAP executive director Anna Alemán said she hopes the drug war doesn't affect the amount of help U.S. outreach programs offer to people in Juárez.
Alemán said her staff sets up a makeshift health clinic to accommodate the doctors' visit to Hospital de la Familia.
Maggie Ybarra may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6151.