Drama at the Clinic
Clínica Esperanza Temporarily Closes Doors to Pressure Licensing Process and Release of Donations

August 1st, 2011
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private]

Nurse Peggy Stranges at her Sandy Bay home that also serves as her office

Nurse Peggy Stranges at her Sandy Bay home that also serves as her office

July was full of drama for Clínica Esperanza, a Sandy Bay private clinic offering low cost care to the needy. A true telenovela unfolded involving a container full of medical equipment, Honduras’ First Lady, the country’s minister of health, BI congressman, mayor, governor, international donors and the clinic’s founder – nurse Peggy Stranges.

“The rules change every time you send a container,” said Stranges who has brought three containers from the US in the last four years but had run into difficulties with the fourth one. “In October 2010 we got a container through without any problems.” While Stranges says she couldn’t understand where the delays were coming from, many of the local politicians and community leaders remained unaware of the clinic’s voluntary problems until the shut down.

Governor Shawn Hyde suggested to Stranges that she should try to have the container imported thru a friendly ZOLITUR licensed company that would allow avoiding taxes and keeping all the paperwork on Roatan. “Once you go with a problem to Tegucigalpa things just get very complicated,” said Governor Shawn Hyde, also a general manager of Naviera Hybur, company that helped to ship the container.

Stranges say that in June Honduras’ First Lady, Rosa Elena de Lobo promised her personally to assist in clearing the permit for the container. “I needed help and I didn’t know what to do,” said Strangers who found herself heading a quickly growing organization that helps the needs of almost everyone in Sandy Bay and West End. The clinic’s 10 staff and 10 volunteers see around 2,000 patients a month.

Stranges tried to meet with the first lady again on July 8 but failed. “How impolite is it to look at someone you know and just leave without talking,” said Strangers about her encounter at Infinity Bay with the first lady of Honduras, where she was on holiday. Stanges followed with a couple interviews on a local media and things just took a turn for the worse from there.

At the same time Stranges skipped asking people like Mayor Galindo or Governor Shawn Hyde directly for help. She also did not ask her patients to sign petitions nor stage any demonstrations in front a government buildings, a common practice in Honduras that is used to pressure public officials when all else fails.

By creating a sense of urgency Stranges wanted to put pressure on government officials in helping to clear the container and speed a licensing process for Clínica Esperanza’s new floor housing birthing and pediatric center. “I shut it down because the politicians, they just don’t deserve a clinic like that,” said Stranges. The clinic was closed on July 11 and 12.

While many people had the impression that the reason for shutting down the clinic was the inability for Clínica Esperanza to receive its container, Stranges says that the actual reason was that the clinic was getting a license for the second floor of the building of her clinic where a pediatric and birthing center were to open.

In actuality the shipment didn’t contain any medications needed for the clinic to operate, in fact two thirds of its content was destined for the Roatan public hospital. “What we got in this container I could have bought for $1,000.” said Strangers. “I really only needed seven IV pulls and a stretcher.” One of the more valuable donations was a birthing bed, when new, is valued at around $7,000.

On the second day of the shut-down Stranges sat down with Congressman Romeo Silvestri, Mayor Julio Galindo and worked out a deal to reopen the clinic. The catalyst for resolving the container issue was Mayor Julio Galindo who with a couple phone calls cleared the path for the container to be released and clinic certification process to be sped up.

On Roatan at least, there is almost a universal appreciation of “nurse Peggy’s,” as Stranges is affectionately called, contribution to island’s health situation. “Nurse Peggy has been a hard working lady. We need people like that here,” said Mayor Julio Galindo, who before he was mayor gave $10,000 to Strangers so the land needed for the clinic could be purchased.

Still the drama didn’t happen without casualties. “Because of this ordeal NOMMS (New Orleans Medical Mission Services) will no longer send any containers to Honduras,” said Stranges about an organization that has been donating medical equipment for years. NOMMS donated the content of the container valued at $5,298.

It is unclear if subsequent containers with donations to the clinic would be efficiently cleared. Clínica Esperanza as an NGO (Non-governmental organization) is not eligible for a ZOLITUR license that would allow them tax free imports.

On July 28 and 29, the Ministry of Health inspectors visited the clinic and made recommendations in order for Clínica Esperanza to receive certifications. That is expected to happen on, or before August 28. [/private]

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