Safe drinking water at the San Carlos Hospital at last!

Director Nora Tobin meets with San Carlos Hospital Staff in May 2017

Imagine you are a doctor working in San Carlos, Nicaragua.  A patient comes in with a case that probably requires surgery.  If you had a perfectly sterile environment and all the medical supplies you’d need, you would definitely recommend an operation. But you don’t.  You know your patient will face an uphill battle in recovering from the operation and the inevitable infection that will follow. You suspect that the water used to clean your surgical instruments is at least in part to blame. The supplier says the water is treated, but if it were, the infections your patients get after surgery wouldn’t take so long to heal. Maybe they wouldn’t even get infections. To operate or not to? How can you best serve this patient?

Until January 2017, persistent infections were a reality faced by the nearly 50,000 patients who sought treatment from the San Carlos hospital each year. Patients came to the hospital seeking treatment for waterborne diseases, yet the hospital’s water source itself was not sufficiently treated, risking the health of both patients and the 250 hospital employees. Despite the fact that is is the main hospital serving all four municipalities that make up the department— San Juan de Nicaragua, El Castillo, San Carlos, and San Miguelito/Morrito, the water lacked sufficient chlorination to make it safe for human consumption.

The San Carlos hospital management staff contacted Self-Help in August 2016 seeking a solution to their water quality problem. After reviewing the available options, the hospital asked us to assist them with the installation of five CTI-8 manual water chlorinators.

A view from the top: chlorinating water to make it safe to drink

Since the chlorine tablets could not be added directly to the hospital’s main metal storage tank, we first helped install new pumps and plastic water storage tanks at the top of each hospital building to ensure the water chlorination system would work properly.

The first chlorinator installed on Thursday, January 19, 2017, supplies the maternity and neonatal room inside the hospital where approximately 500 children are born each year. Over the next two months, we installed four more chlorination systems to cover the hospital’s pediatrics, general medicine and orthopedics, maternity, surgery, and emergency centers.

Teaching hospital staff about good water, sanitation and hygiene practices

We provided educational talks to nursing staff, maintenance, cleaning, laboratory, administrator, doctors and directors of the hospital, regarding the use, management, and maintenance of the CTI-8 manual chlorinator focusing on the importance of using only reliable and clean water, and how to keep the systems adequately chlorinated to ensure the health of their patients. The hospital administrator now tests each water tank twice per week to ensure that the systems are properly calibrated to kill any contaminants.

The Director gives thanks for Self-Help’s support with the installations, reporting, “Now we have a good perception of the quality of the water that we have, and I’m happy because before it was a headache to talk about the quality of the water in this hospital beforehand–people criticized us on this subject. But now, we can say at any moment and in any meeting, we have water of good quality and safe for the population we serve. Now people who visit the hospital of San Carlos, for consultations, appointments, emergencies, or hospital admission of any kind, are sure to take and use the drinking water inside the hospital.”

Since the 5 chlorination systems have been installed, we can now say with ease that the 41,000 visitors of the hospital each year will have safe water for all of the hospital’s needs.

While we celebrate this success, our work is not yet complete. Patients who leave the hospital need clean water when they get home too. When you make a donation right now, an anonymous challenger will match every dollar, up to $4,500, to help us bring clean water to six more communities in rural Nicaragua.

If you plan to make a gift this year, please consider making it now before the children’s next illness. Following your sponsorship, you will receive an update and progress report of the individuals whose lives you have changed forever. Donate online now and select “Please use my donation for clean water in Nicaragua.”