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Carolinas HealthCare System

Carolinas HealthCare System holds strong to its commitment of providing quality healthcare services to those in need

From North Carolina to Nicaragua and other locations around the world, Carolinas HealthCare System holds strong to its commitment of providing quality healthcare services to those in need.

Francis Robicsek, MD, PhD, vice president of the System's International Medical Outreach program (IMO), is helping lead the charge.

IMO —a collaboration between Carolinas HealthCare System and the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte—has a 50-year history of delivering medical assistance globally and of establishing sustainable healthcare in medically underserved countries. As of today, the IMO Program has improved the health of patients in 26 countries through its contributions to major projects.

Most recently, Dr. Robicsek traveled to Guatemala to celebrate the opening of two intensive care units, which the program helped fully furnish with more than 14,000 pounds of medical equipment to Hospital Nacional de Occidente.

The facility is located in the city of Quetzaltenango, also known as "Xela," in the country's second largest city with a population of nearly 250,000. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Central America. As a public hospital, Hospital Nacional de Occidente offers free care services and treats a large number of medically underserved patients, primarily those who live in the Southwestern region of the country. Most of the time, the hospital is at capacity and unable to provide more advanced treatment options, due to lack of funding and older equipment. In fact, prior to this donation, the rural hospital had only a minimally-equipped neonatal and pediatric intensive care unit, lacking an established adult intensive care unit.

"It is a privilege for us to be part of a project of such magnitude and to provide necessary medical resources to communities that need it the most," said Dr. Robicsek. "Our ongoing involvement with medical assistance projects in Central America has allowed us to help assure free access to basic care services that would not be available otherwise. We look forward to continue to assist such communities in their efforts to provide quality healthcare in Guatemala."

Recent IMO outreach highlights include:

  • Donations of cardiac catheterization laboratories in Managua, Nicaragua – these were the country's first laboratories installed in a public cardiac facility.
  • The establishment of a Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Program in Belize City, Belize, where IMO is facilitating ongoing echocardiography services, catheterizations and open heart surgeries. In July 2012, the program helped make possible the country's first open heart surgery.
  • Ongoing cardiology support in Guatemala, as well as support of a nationwide education project aimed at equipping thousands of public schools with computer laboratories.
  • An international medical communication portal was launched in February 2012. Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute and the Guatemalan Institute of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery established a 24/7 communication bridge for diagnosis and treatment. The portal is the first of its kind for the public hospital system in Guatemala and represents a major advancement in the quality of cardiac care overseas. The program will help open a similar portal in September 2013 with the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City, Belize.

Unique among local and national philanthropic organizations, the IMO Program spends 100 percent of funds received for designated projects. It has no administrative or fundraising costs.

Francis Robicsek, MD, PhD, vice president of the System's International Medical Outreach program, celebrates with guests during the opening of two intensive care units at a Guatemalan Hospital in July. Marco Vinicio Arévalo, vice minister of hospitals for Guatemala (pictured left), is among the guests. Dr. Francis Robicsek pauses for a moment with a child in Mérida (Yucatán), Mexico.