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Chile: giving and receiving

03-09-2007 Feature

Wearing a Chilean Red Cross jacket instead of the traditional white coat, José Ignacio Quidel Gacitúa has just finished seeing seven patients in Traiguén. It’s a cold July morning in the medical post that the rural community of Molco has made available to the Red Cross for its medical assistance operation.


©CICR / Oscar Obreque Torres 
José Ignacio Quidel Gacitúa, volunteer doctor with the Chilean Red Cross, working in the Molco medical post, Traiguén. 
    “Respiratory infections are common at this time of year,” says José Ignacio, who graduated from Universidad de la Frontera medical school in December 2006. He volunteered towards the end of his course, when the Red Cross visited his university and invited both professionals and students to help them run health programmes.

As José Ignacio points out, the communities that the Red Cross visits “have no means of transport and their economic resources are limited. The fact that we come to them means they don’t have to travel into town.” After the visit, if the patient requires further treatment “we put them in touch with the appropriate health facility. That may be the health post, or if the illness is more complex it may be the hospital.”

To reach Molco, the v olunteer doctor has to travel 330 km from Lanquihue, where he works in the accident and emergency unit of a health centre. “The atmosphere in the Chilean Red Cross health department, the atmosphere here, the level of commitment and the fact that many volunteers are studying to join professions related to medicine are what motivate me to make the long journey.” He also feels a personal desire to carry on working with and learning more about “people from the countryside. They have a great deal of respect for us and are very appreciative.”

The project is being run by volunteers from the health department of the Araucanía regional committee of the Chilean Red Cross, along with volunteers from the youth, relief and communications departments. José Ignacio has noticed that each operation is better prepared than the last: “At the beginning, we just took what medicines we could get off visiting doctors who were friends of ours. Now we draw up a list of basic medicines, such as cough mixture, pain-killers and vitamins,” which are purchased and then distributed free of charge during these operations. “Coming here gives me a lot. I’m proud to be taking part.”