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For more than 40 years, Carolinas HealthCare System’s International Medical Outreach (IMO) program has played an active role in enhancing the heart health of patients abroad. Its efforts continue today as it nears the end of the second year of a three-year project aimed at increasing access to cardiology care services in Central America.
In late October 2013, the IMO program helped establish three echocardiography laboratories (echo labs) in rural hospitals in Guatemala (Hospital San Benito Petén and Hospital Totonicapán) and El Salvador (Hospital Pro-Familia). It donated the echo machines to each laboratory and helped train the echo technicians at each hospital to properly use the machines for diagnosing patients with potential cardiac ailments.Echo machines are one of today’s most basic tools used to diagnose heart problems, yet they are not readily available to patients in rural areas in Central America. Many patients, especially children, whose heart conditions could be treated if diagnosed, currently receive no treatment at all. By providing the machines and training technicians to operate them properly, the IMO program is able to help public hospitals aboard to more effectively treat thousands of patients and to provide such care at very low or no cost.
The opening of the three labs last month brings the IMO program a few steps closer to completing its “echo lab network” project, which aims to provide 14 rural hospitals with fully-functional labs by end of 2014. Since the project launched in 2012, thanks to the support of organizations like the Dickson Foundation and Heineman Foundation of Charlotte, eight laboratories have been successfully installed.