This April represents one full year of changes, and today our operations look a little different than this time last year. Perhaps you remember we had to postpone hosting volunteers just before the April 2020 trip due to COVID. We had to figure out new ways to provide the care our patients depend on while making sure we protected everyone’s health and safety. We navigated a complex and evolving landscape of travel restrictions, government and expert recommendations. And we provided critical care and medications to our patients on-time and with little disruption to them. We should all be very proud of the things we’ve accomplished together this past year.
As we open our clinic once again this month, one difference patients will see is the arrival of two new physicians who are filling in for Dra. Livia and Dra. Rachelli on this trip. Joining us for the first time are physicians Dr. Ramos Charinna and Dr. Jorge Fernandez. Dr. Charinna and Dr. Fernandez will consult with patients, authorize tests or medications, and provide medical care as needed. ¡Bienvenido, Dr. Charinna and Dr. Fernandez! Additionally, our own Dr. Jim McCann will be at the clinic following up with patients in our Insulin Outreach Program. Jim will check-in with each patient to ensure their diabetes treatments are working, and to make adjustments as needed—a critical part of successful diabetes treatment. We’re also able to provide dental care thanks to the skills of Dr. Cesar and Dr. Abel, two Dominican dentists who worked with us in January! They are assisted again by dental assistants Indiana and Franchesca.
Last year, we began receiving text messages from patients requesting an appointment. This proved to be very successful, and we began testing voice messages with some of our patients. We realized voice messages are helpful for several of our patients. A spoken message can be a much lower barrier to receiving care, especially when a patient’s reading and writing skills are limited. We’re happy to announce that starting with this trip, all patients can request an appointment via text message or voice message. Daritza, our intake coordinator, has been managing the appointment line like a pro, and we’ve now seen hundreds of patients since last April. Alix and Euclides screen patients at the door and ensure our clinic’s safety.
We’re also almost back to normal in the pharmacy and lab, including securing tests, supplies, and medications which were harder to come by earlier in the pandemic. Claribel and Manuel have been instrumental in running our lab and pharmacy, and the increased availability will enable our physicians to better diagnose and treat patients. In addition to our strict protocols to prevent transmission of COVID-19—including screening anyone entering our clinic for symptoms (temperature, respiratory symptoms, etc.) and providing sanitization for patients—we’ve acquired a number of covid rapid tests which we can use to test any patients who are displaying symptoms. The tests are quite expensive to purchase right now, so we can’t test every person. This new testing capacity will help us continue to safeguard the health of our staff, patients, and the communities our patients live in.
To top it off, when patients arrive at the clinic, they’ll also be cared for by a fully vaccinated staff!
To Our Volunteers
It was a hard pill to swallow when we had to postpone our volunteer trips and recruiting last year as the pandemic gripped the world. A hard but necessary reality. At our core, Somos Amigos is a volunteer-driven organization and has been for over 20 years. To our past, present and future volunteers: we know you’re out there chomping at the bit to join us for another volunteer trip to Naranjito! We’re anxious to host a new cohort of volunteers, but we’re still restricted by restrictions on travel both in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. In the meantime we’re figuring out how to safely host volunteers in a future trip—we hope this fall—as well as enhancing our volunteer communications. Keep an eye out for emails specifically for you!