Mano a Mano’s aviation program brings healthcare into sparsely populated remote communities whose location is hours or days away by land or river from the nearest health services. Since 2005, we have served these communities through:
- “Pop up” weekend clinics (or five-day events, when possible) for which we transport volunteer health care professionals to provide primary medical & dental care, health education, and referrals to specialists, if needed;
- Emergency rescue of ill and injured individuals, transporting them to urban hospitals for life-saving treatment.
Weekend Health Clinics (Jornadas)
Our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Aviation coordinates its weekend clinics with groups of rural community leaders, nuns, or others in the region who have two-way radios. The aircraft lands on local airstrips carved among dense forests. Volunteer medical professionals carry their equipment and supplies with them. They set up the clinics in whatever location is available; sometimes a simple community meeting structure, sometimes outdoors where they hang sheets on wire lines stretched from one tree to another.
5-Day Jornada in Beni – April 2023
During a five-day set of clinic events in the Beni Department (state) communities of Naranjal, Jojori, and San Salvador in April 2023, 3 health care professionals served 200 medical patients. Mano a Mano also provided needed medical supplies; the Unidad de Salud en San Lorenzo de Moxos provided vaccinations.
Benita Diaz, a pediatric nurse who has participated in many weekend clinics, says, “Sometimes there are so many patients that we run from one to the next. So many people want to see us. Knowing that people feel much better because I have been here to treat them motivates me to continue doing this work.”
Volunteer dentists cleaned and filled teeth of 80 patients, most of whom had never seen a dentist – a total of 190 treatments during an exhausting five April days.
During January-April this year, volunteer professionals have treated 664 medical patients and 454 dental patients through Mano a Mano’s weekend clinic program.
- Weekend Health Clinic in Potosí on March 4th-5th, 2023
- Weekend Health Clinic in San Javier, Bolivia on January 28-29
- Recent Weekend Health Clinics in Laguna Sulti and Poza Honda (October 2022)
Whether scheduled days ahead of time or in response to a life or death medical emergency, every flight requires diligent preparation. The answers to two questions top the preparation list:
- First: is every component of the aircraft in airworthy condition;
- Second, are weather conditions acceptable throughout the planned route.
The response to both must be “affirmative.”
Once an affirmative response to both requirements is confirmed, immediate review of any available medical information is required. To approve the flight, “Yes” must be the answer to these questions:
- Does the patient’s condition require airlift to a medical facility or other health care provider?
- If the patient is currently hospitalized but in need of a higher level of care, is the patient able to tolerate flight?
- Can we locate a facility that will accept the patient?
The next step: file a flight plan and obtain approval from the appropriate government authorities, not only for the plan itself, but for specific permission to land on both the selected site, as well as an alternate runway, in case an emergency occurs. Approval could take from 12 hours to several days. Mano a Mano’s aviation personnel have developed the confidence of these approving agencies: we have demonstrated that we will carry out the plan as filed and never be associated with drug trafficking (a huge topic of concern for private flights in the regions we work) in any way. We have generally obtained approval within the 12 hours.
Selecting the airstrip for the planned flight is a constant challenge for all flights outside major urban areas. Flights into these regions require extensive personal contact with the informal system that determines when and whether the airstrip will be available for aircraft landing. Some public airstrips are open only for a few hours on weekends, some on specific weekday mornings or afternoons. Our personnel must be known to, and coordinate the flight with, an individual who can approve the landing at the selected location.
At times there is no public airstrip within range of the intended destination. In these situations, our personnel seek permission from the owner of an airstrip located on private land, often a ranch or related business. Again, the flight plan reflects this necessity.
Only after a definite landing strip and time can be established at the selected destination, can a final flight plan be filed, and the pilot chosen.
Last year Mano a Mano’s aviation program supported 33 weekend clinics and airlifted 155 patients.
Only though the coordinated effort of our aviation personnel with the complex network of government entities and Bolivia’s essential informal aviation support system can our aircraft take flight.