Floating Doctors is a US non-for-profit that provides free health care services and delivers donated medical supplies to remote Ngäbe indigenous communities in Panama. Every week, they dispatch a team of medical volunteers in to villages deep in the Panamanian jungle. Gloves Go Global donated 1,000 gloves to their cause. I volunteered for five weeks with Floating Doctors and saw first hand how their mobile clinics are run and how donations are put to great use.
I was able to see how important Floating Doctors is to the Ngäbe communities. The Ngäbe are ranked as one of the poorest indigenous communities in Latin America and as the poorest community in Panama. Government statistics estimate that 90% of the population lives below the poverty line. Some patients walk hours to get to the clinic, and all wait 3 months between clinics for their near-only access to medical care. Floating Doctors relies heavily on donations and volunteers. When they run out of medicine or medical supplies they carry on with what they have left, and when there are few medical providers they simply have longer and harder clinic days. Floating Doctors is committed to follow-up visits and sticking to the rotating 3-month schedule, and the Ngäbe people count on them. The most frequent diagnoses I saw were stomach worms, parasites, scabies, fungal infections, viral infections and bacterial infections, together with chronic aches and pains from a lifetime of tough physical labor. Some of the more dire diagnoses were advanced kidney failure, hernias, heart murmurs, tuberculosis, gall stones, and for these patients Floating Doctors commits to providing longterm treatment plans. Overall, it was rewarding to see how a few dedicated people and some key resources can make a fundamental difference in the lives of others.
- Written by Hannah Akre, Director and Founder of Gloves Go Global