Walla Walla General team Goes to Guyana

In May, a three-person team from Walla Walla General Hospital set out on a whirlwind journey of love. Leaving the comforts of the Northwest, they flew a two-stop trip to Georgetown, Guyana. After just two days in the tropical town, they left again, but not without a new addition to the family.

With the support of the WWGH leadership and medical staff, the trio “adopted” a sister Adventist hospital in South America. Working through Adventist Health International—an organization created in 1991 to support Adventist hospitals and clinics in developing countries—the team visited Davis Memorial Hospital in Guyana (pronounced GUY-ana). Slightly larger than Idaho, the former European colony borders Venezuela on the east and is the only English-speaking country in South America.

Among the sugar cane, rice paddies and mango trees, DMH was established in 1954 in honor of an early 20th century missionary. While it has survived over the last five decades, the depressed local economy and lack of resources make operations tough.

“We were interested in adopting an Adventist hospital in a less developed country and helping them out,” says Monty Knittel, president and CEO of WWGH. “The purpose of this trip was to get a firsthand look at their needs.” He stressed that the support was not necessarily monetary. Much assistance could be in the form of volunteer labor and consulting on areas such as policies and procedures, staff education and biomedical training. Additionally, mission trips will be funded by donations rather than from hospital operations.

In the weeks since returning, the team has kept in contact with the DMH leadership with the goal of prioritizing needs.

DMH’s needs are many, according to Marj Simons, WWGH patient care executive. Some are very basic, such as help with painting. Others, such as remodeling the ER, are more complicated.

WWGH’s biggest offering though is experience. After the trip, WWGH sent sample policy materials for DMH to customize, and a future option would be to send volunteer nurses to Guyana to teach and train clinicians. In the interim, Simons hopes to send education modules.

Beyond training, a major focus is improving DMH’s clinical operations.

“When we went to Guyana, I was encouraged to see they were doing a lot of good work,” says Jack Hoehn, WWGH primary care physician. For him, going remote was like going home. After spending 12 years working in Africa, he says, “I consider myself first a mission doctor.”

“The staff and the CEO are so dedicated,” says Simons. “Just about anything we do will be helpful.”

Reflecting on the trip, she says, “It’s striking how much blessing there is in helping. We haven’t done anything tangible yet, but we’ve given them hope.”

To learn more about this project and what you can do to help, contact: (509) 527-8302.

August 01, 2008 / Adventist Health