Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and HanesBrands Inc. have teamed up in a unique partnership to improve medical facilities and provide surgical and other health care services to those in need in a region of the Dominican Republic.
The focal point of the project is a public hospital, Hospital Pedro de Marchena, in Bonao, a city of approximately 125,000 located in the central part of the Caribbean island nation. HanesBrands, the Winston-Salem-based manufacturer and marketer of branded everyday apparel, operates a textile manufacturing plant in Bonao that is one of the largest private employers in the region.
“Because of its inland location, far from the beaches and resorts, Bonao isn’t a tourist destination,” said Frank Vasquez, HanesBrands’ director of corporate social responsibility. “The area suffers significant poverty, with some rural communities even lacking running water and electricity.”
Hospital Marchena, which was established in 1952, is the only public hospital and emergency medical facility in the Bonao region.
“The hospital is definitely lacking in terms of facilities and equipment, and there’s a shortage of surgeons capable of performing some necessary procedures,” said J. Dale Browne, M.D., professor and chair of otolaryngology at Wake Forest Baptist. “There are real needs there, and we’re pleased that we’re able to address some of them by working in collaboration with HanesBrands.”
While HanesBrands has been engaged in improvement projects at Hospital Marchena since 2007, Wake Forest Baptist’s involvement began last year.
In June and November of 2011, Browne and colleagues traveled to Bonao and conducted two clinics in which they saw approximately 80 children and identified potential surgery patients.
In January of this year, two cargo containers of medical equipment and supplies, mainly from Wake Forest Baptist’s Office of Global Health Resource Center, were shipped from Winston-Salem to Bonao by HanesBrands. The first shipment contained furniture, an operating table and disposable surgical supplies while the second included surgical instruments, anesthesia machines, microscopes, surgical power equipment and an examination chair.
In February, a 14-member medical mission from Wake Forest Baptist headed by Browne and pediatric otolaryngologist Adele K. Evans, M.D., spent a week at Hospital Marchena, performing surgeries and examinations and educating local doctors and nurses. During their stay, Browne, Evans and two other Wake Forest Baptist head and neck surgeons, Drs. Kristin L. Marcum and Jordan Wallin, performed more than 50 operations on pre-screened patients, including tonsillectomies, ear surgeries, cleft procedures and the repair of congenital neck lesions. The mission team – which also included an anesthesiologist, two nurse-anesthetists, two surgical nurses, two floor nurses, a recovery-room nurse, a medical student and a resource management staffer – also examined and treated approximately 100 people, mostly children, in the new Clínica Móvil (Mobile Clinic), a trailer outfitted with medical equipment and furnishings by HanesBrands.
“It was a great experience,” Browne said. “We were able to see more patients than we had originally planned, everything went relatively smoothly and people at the hospital and in the city were very appreciative.”
But that did not mark the end of Wake Forest Baptist’s involvement with Hospital Marchena.
“We will be returning in June for another week of similar activities,” said Browne, who made another trip to the Dominican Republic in April, during which he saw more than 50 children at a health fair in the city of San Pedro de Macoris, the site of another HanesBrands facility. “Other departments at the Medical Center have expressed interest in going to Bonao to address other needs there, and ultimately we’d like to have three to four trips each year.
“We are also developing an internship program in which nurses and residents from Marchena will be able to come to Wake Forest Baptist for two- to four-week immersion programs. Overall, we’re looking at establishing an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship with the hospital.”
As for HanesBrands, it first became involved with Hospital Marchena five years ago when it assisted in the reconstruction and renovation of the pediatric and maternity wards and kitchen and donated funds for the purchase of cribs, beds, kitchen equipment and an ambulance. Most recently, HanesBrands facilitated much-needed renovations to inpatient units, operating rooms, examination rooms and other spaces in the hospital – many of which now contain the furnishings and equipment donated by Wake Forest Baptist.
“We see this as a unique type of partnership and a very complementary one,” said Christopher C. Fox, HanesBrands’ associate general counsel and vice president for corporate social responsibility. “We’ve been able to employ some of our strengths to provide help to Hospital Marchena but we’re certainly not medical experts, which is why Wake Forest Baptist’s involvement is so welcome and so important.”