Utilization of a mobile medical van for delivering pediatric care in the bateys of the Dominican Republic

Int J Emerg Med. 2010 Aug 21;3(4):227-32. doi: 10.1007/s12245-010-0198-4.


Background: Bateys are impoverished areas of housing for migrant Haitian sugar cane workers in the Dominican Republic (DR). In these regions, preventative health care is almost non-existent, public service accessibility is limited, and geographic isolation prevents utilization of care even by those families with resources. Consequently, the development of a viable mobile system is vital to the delivery of acute and preventative health care in this region.

Aims: This study evaluated an existing mobile medical system. The primary goal was to describe the population served, diseases treated, and resources utilized. A secondary goal was to determine qualitatively an optimal infrastructure for sustainable health care delivery within the bateys.

Methods: Information on basic demographic data, diagnosis, chronicity of disease, and medications dispensed was collected on all pediatric patients seen in conjunction with an existing mobile medical system over a 3-month period in the DR. Health statistics for the region were collected and interviews were conducted with health care workers (HCWs) and community members on existing and optimal health care infrastructure.

Results: Five hundred eighty-four pediatric patients were evaluated and treated. Median age was 5 years (range 2 weeks to 20 years), and 53.7% of patients seen were 5 years of age or younger. The mean number of complaints per patient was 2.8 (range 0 to 6). Thirty-six percent (373) of all diagnoses were for acute complaints, and 64% (657) were chronic medical problems. The most common pediatric illnesses diagnosed clinically were gastrointestinal parasitic infection (56.6%), skin/fungal infection (46.2%), upper respiratory tract infections (URIs) (22.8%), previously undiagnosed asthma and allergies (8.2%), and symptomatic anemia (7.2%). Thirty HCWs and community members were interviewed, and all cited the need for similar resources: a community clinic and hospital referral site, health promoters within each community, and the initiation of pediatric training for community HCWs.

Conclusion: A mobile medical system is a sustainable, efficient mechanism for delivering acute and preventive care in the Haitian bateys of the Dominican Republic. The majority of patients served were 8 years of age or younger with multiple presenting symptoms. A pediatric protocol for identifying the most appropriate drugs and supplies for mobile units in the DR can be created based upon diseases evaluated. Qualitative data from HCWs and community members identified the need for an integrative health care delivery infrastructure and community health promoters versed in pediatric care who can aid in education of batey members and monitor chronic and acute illnesses. We are planning follow-up visits to implement these programs.

Keywords: Developing country; Disease prevalence; Dominican Republic; International health; Mobile medical system; Pediatric emergency medicine; Pediatrics.