Update from Northwestern Medicine Trauma Team in Bolivia

Northwestern Medicine
Emergency Medicine and Trauma February 26, 2013
Last week, we told you about a group of Northwestern Medicine trauma surgeons, medical students, nurses, and ancillary staff who are traveling to La Paz, Bolivia, as part of an initiative to improve pre-hospital and trauma care in the impoverished nation.

Steven Schuetz, a graduating medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, arrived in La Paz earlier this month and is blogging about his experience. In his most recent entry, he outlines the goals of the project and the team’s approach:

Our projects: An introduction

An introduction to our approach:

Given the creation of this initiative by two trauma surgeons (one practicing, one aspiring), our focus is very clear: decrease death from traumatic events.  When considering traumatic deaths (from road traffic accidents, stabbings, shootings, falls, etc.), there are three primary areas of intervention that can decrease fatalities:

  1. Prevent traumas from occurring
  2. Prevent victims from dying on their way to the hospital (pre-hospital/ambulance care)
  3. Prevent victims from dying once they reach the hospital (trauma care)
It is with this in mind that we have worked with local Bolivian physicians to develop our projects.

An introduction to trauma care in Bolivia:

Like most other low, middle-income countries (LMIC), Bolivia has no organized pre-hospital system.  While there do exist select few ambulances in La Paz, many are underequipped and staffed by an untrained team.  Add to this an unaffordable price for the average Bolivian and the incredible length of time it takes for an ambulance to simply reach the patient, and it’s no surprise that the majority of patients arrive at the hospital by alternate means.  The alternate means available in Bolivia tend to be taxi drivers and “bomberos,” or volunteer firemen. These individuals lack any training in even the most basic first aid or pre-hospital trauma care…they are simply “good Samaritans” who extract the victims and throw them in the back seat, hoping they can reach a hospital before the patients die.

Read the full entry on Schuetz’s blog.

Stay tuned to the NMH News Blog for regular updates from the team in Bolivia.