The Diocese of Helena mission in Guatemala began in 1964. It is located in the coastal highlands, approximately 100 km (66 miles) west-northwest of Guatemala City, not too far north from the City of Mazatenango.
The complex contains a residence for the Guatemalan priests who serve the parish; a residence for the clinic coordinator, Sheila McShane, RN; accommodations for volunteers and visitors who serve there; a medical clinic; and facilities attendant to all these functions. La Asuncion School is approximately 3 miles from the central complex. Santo Tomas Apóstol Church, the center of the parish community, is only a few blocks away and is staffed by the resident priests.
The Clinica Maxeña has provided both preventive and curative medicine since 1966. Over the years, disease has become more complex, requiring improved health programs and services. The clinic sees about 30 patients each day and performs over 9,000 laboratory diagnostic tests each year. Some patients’ diagnoses require that they be transported to other facilities, including the national cancer center in Guatemala City. Due to poverty, many who require clinic services are not able to pay even the small amount asked of them.
Buen Vivir, the “Good Life Booth” at the clinic, provides preventive health advice and organic snacks, a product of the clinic’s medicinal plant garden, to patients awaiting consult. The clinic provides support for those with diabetes, and promotes sustainable agriculture. Twice a year the clinic provides a week-long ophthalmology surgery and consult with specialists visiting from the U.S. Many patients benefit from cataract surgery and other minor surgical procedures at minimal cost or in some instances free of charge.
The Clinica Maxeña depends on the generosity of donors in order to operate and especially to assist patients unable to pay the clinic’s minimal charge, to send patients to other medical facilities for specialized care, and to offset the constantly increasing cost of care.
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