Mission: Panama

Mission Facts

  • Location: Panama City, Panama

  • Population: 880,691

  • Dates: 04/09/2016 - 04/16/2016

  • Focus: Cardiac

  • Complexity: Very High

  • Training: Very High

  • Average Mended: 10

Mission Brief

Where in the World
Panama is a country located in Central America. It is an isthmus bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, home to nearly half of the country's population. In 2005, approximately 29% of the population was under 15 years of age. The population included more than 417,000 Amerindians.

Healthcare in Panama
Healthcare in Panama is in the hands of two public entities: the Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud) and the Social Security System (Caja de Seguros Social). The latter runs the country’s public hospitals and clinics. One of the main issues with the Panamanian healthcare system is accessibility. While people living in Panama’s big cities usually have a choice of several hospitals and doctors, rural areas and the indigenous population suffer from a lack of access to good medical care. Often, only first-aid services are available, if at all.

Unfortunately this also applies to the private sector. While modern, state-of-the-art medical facilities are available in Panama City, none can be found in smaller towns or in rural areas. Recommended private hospitals in Panama City include the Hospital Nacional, the Clinica Hospital San Fernando, and the Hospital Punta Pacifica.

The Children
Despite positive economic growth, there are large economic disparities in Panama: the gap between rich and poor is increasing. In 2008, 32% of the population lived below the poverty line. Many children and adolescents are directly affected by this lack of equality, especially children in the most far-flung rural regions and those of indigenous populations.

Lack of access to quality health care offered to children in rural regions and among indigenous populations is concerning. Many children only have limited access to basic health care, and may not have any access to potable water and the most basic sanitation services. In addition, the infant mortality rate among indigenous populations is incredibly high (between 35-62%), partially due to a low rate of breastfeeding compared to the rest of the region. However, the new government in Panama has made it a national priority to change these statistics.

The Mission
Although pediatric cardiac surgery is available in public hospitals in Panama City, the country lacks the expertise in neonatal congenital heart repair, so babies have to reach certain threshold weights before they can be treated. At the request of the First Lady of Panama, Doña Lorena Castillo, we are sending an inaugural cardiac surgical mission to Panama City, led by veteran Mending Kids surgeon, Dr. Salvatore (Sasha) Agati, to answer the call for help to begin training and mending the youngest patients.

Mission Map