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Around the world, one in every 1000 babies is born with a club foot. In Ecuador, the majority of these children are not treated at birth, making learning to walk difficult or impossible. Ecuador also has a high incidence of hip dysplasia, a birth defect which can cripple a person by age 30. Poverty and limited access to medical assistance often mean children with these conditions live with pain and limited mobility their entire lives.
Adults in Ecuador who require hip replacements or repairs due to injuries or congenital deformities often face debilitating pain and difficulty walking. Employment becomes impossible for those unable to move about and families suffer the consequences.
In 2001 a small group of Edmonton-based health care practitioners and lay people who had been on two previous medical missions to Ecuador formed the Canadian Association of Medical Teams Abroad (CAMTA). The group wanted to provide orthopedic surgery to pediatric and adult patients and to share continuing education on detection and treatment practices with medical personnel in Ecuador.
Every year since, CAMTA has sent a growing number of volunteers to Ecuador. The teams include pediatric and adult orthopedic surgeons, anesthetists, family medicine doctors, anesthetic technicians, physiotherapists, operating room, recovery room and ward nurses, residents, nursing and medical students, lay people, general students and translators who work with local hospital staff.
CAMTA provides orthopedic surgeries at Un Canto a la Vida Hospital in Quito. Our group does not charge the patients or their families, but patients do have to pay something to the hospital. Each family’s cost is determined by the hospital social worker. CAMTA performs about 80 surgeries in a two week period each year.
Team members volunteer their time and expertise and raise the funds necessary to cover their travel and living expenses. All the money they raise above that amount helps to pay for medical and surgical supplies and equipment needed for the Mission.
During each medical mission, a group of CAMTA surgeons visits rural hospitals to interview potential sites for establishing a SIGN Nail program. CAMTA also ships large containers of donated hospital equipment and supplies to partner hospitals in Ecuador. These hospitals are often old and poorly equipped. The local medical personnel strive to provide quality care with limited resources, and are very grateful for the equipment and supplies that they receive.
CAMTA works with the Tierra Nueva Foundation in Quito, Ecuador and operates in the Foundation’s new hospital, Un Canto a la Vida. CAMTA has SIGN Nail projects in three hospitals in Ecuador:
- Hospital Vicente Corral Moscoso in Cuenca.
- Hospital Isidro Ayora in Loja
- Hospital Provincial "Martín Icaza" in Babahoyo
The team will return to Ecuador in February, 2020 for its ninetenth medical Mission.
In the future CAMTA hopes to visit Ecuador more than once a year, and to someday expand to support needy communities in other locations around the world.
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