A Day in the Life of a Mobile Health Unit

The Mobile Health Unit team consists of a nurse, doctor, educator, and driver who work three weeks straight, visiting a different community each day. In Zudáñez, Bolivia, the team packs a vehicle with a stretcher, an oxygen tank, intravenous kits, a ready supply of contraception, and dozens of medications for common sicknesses. Then they set out for remote communities like Rodeo Grande. The journey is only 160 miles, which would take approximately four hours, but given the conditions of the roads, the journey takes about eight hours. This is what happens once they arrive:

6 AM: The team wakes up with the sun, deflates our air mattresses, and folds our blankets. We arrived late last night in order to continue to provide Bolivia’s marginalized populations with lifesaving health care throughout the day.

7 AM: We quickly transform the schoolhouse into a doctor’s office. A former door is turned into an exam bed. Basic medical equipment is sterilized and placed on a clean table. Despite limited resources, every attempt is made to provide high-quality services.

8 AM: The nurse begins conducting pre-appointment consultations with patients. She weighs the clients, takes their blood pressure, and records their height. The clients then wait to be examined by the doctor.

8:30 AM: The doctor begins seeing one client after another. By the end of the day, the mobile health workers will have provided care to around 30 people. For most, it will be the first time they have ever received health care.

10 AM: We’re so grateful for the extensive network of community volunteers and health promoters that assists the team. They go door-to-door to remind people of the times the Mobile Health Unit will be in the village/town. This ensures a maximum number of people will be present during the Mobile Health Unit visits.

1PM: Some of the community members kindly prepare special traditional dishes for lunch. Community leaders give speeches and community members do a short performance that focuses on pregnancy, family planning, and violence.

2:30 PM: After the lunch break, the team returns to the clinic and continues to provide health services. One particularly memorable client was an indigenous Guarani woman with tired eyes, who said that urination caused a burning sensation and her lower abdomen ached. "I'm worried about cervical cancer," says the 45 year-old grandmother of two as she waits to see the doctor. Half an hour later, the woman emerges, relieved. She was in the clear for now, she said. "I didn't even know what a cervix was before the mobile health units started arriving," she adds with a half-smile.

7 PM: Once all of the clients have been seen, the team transforms the classroom space again–this time into a bedroom. They bring their own bedding and inflatable mattresses. If the space they use is not a school, they will often sleep in a church or some other community-gathering place.

Medicine on the Move in Bolivia


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