UPDATE (March 30, 2020) – Contingency Plan Update
UPDATE (March 16 2020) – April Trip Cancelled
When I issued our initial statement in response to the COVID-19 situation, I promised that Somos Amigos would continue to monitor developments and heed the guidance of various healthcare-focused organizations.
Ten days have passed and the situation we all face has indeed become much more serious. We have decided that we must cancel our April trip. We have made this decision out of an abundance of caution and mindful of the health risks to our volunteers, patients and community partners.
We remain committed to providing health care to the communities surrounding Naranjito. We have hundreds of patients who depend on us to deliver quality and reliable care. We will not let them down.
I have spent the past few days in the Dominican Republic setting in motion a contingency plan. We will have a small staff at the clinic for the week we were designated to be there. The clinic has been organized for the efficient distribution of prescriptions (including injections) to our regular patients, and that will be the focus of the workers. During the week, those at the clinic working on our behalf will have nearly continuous audio and video contact with at least one of our physicians in the U.S.
As you might expect, the spread of the virus is on everyone’s mind, even in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. Elbow bumps have replaced the hugs that are usually so generously offered. We are all navigating uncharted waters. The decision to cancel our trip was not an easy one, but an obvious one.
Thank you all for your continued support. I will be following-up with the dedicated volunteers who are scheduled for the April trip.
Original Statement as it appeared on March 4, 2020
With our trip to the Dominican Republic just a few weeks away, it is difficult not to pay extra attention to the news regarding the emergence and spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
We are committed to providing health care to the communities surrounding Naranjito in the Dominican Republic, and we will continue to pay close attention to new developments and guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Dominican Ministry of Public Health.
These organizations do not recommend restricting normal travel, based on best scientific evidence. We presently have no plans to adjust or cancel the staffing of our clinic in April or beyond. However, any volunteer who is uncomfortable traveling given the unknown risks is certainly able to choose to remain at home and not to participate; any program fees paid will be returned to the volunteer.
As we always have, in our clinic we follow universal precautions. We ensure adequate facilities for individual precautionary measures such as hand-washing and other recommended general measures.
We will plan on screening patients who come to our clinic for symptoms consistent with a viral respiratory tract infection (fever, cough, congestion) and will place a mask on patients who show evidence of this type of infection. Our goal is to protect staff and patients and to prevent transmission of any communicable diseases within our facility.
Given our commitment to maintaining the health and safety of our volunteers, patients and community partners in the Dominican Republic, we request that all participants in a Somos Amigos Medical Missions trip remain vigilant about their own health and cancel participation if there are any signs of illness (cough, fever). If a volunteer becomes ill (cough, fever, malaise) during a trip, we reserve the right to require that the volunteer return to Santiago with the goal of returning to the USA or home country as soon as can be organized.
We will keep you posted as the situation evolves.