A new program in Bolivia offering free medical attention has provided care to more than 500,000 people in the city of El Alto since it was established in June of 2013 by the country’s Ministry of Health.
More than 134 clinics of the "Mi Salud," or My Health program can be found across the city.
The majority of the population of El Alto, a largely working class city neighboring the administrative capital of La Paz, is comprised of indigenous Aymara campesinos and descendents who migrated from rural areas to the city. The medical needs of El Alto’s residents have grown alongside that of the city’s population, which is now greater than La Paz.
Miriam Calla Mamani said she never used to seek medical attention due to long lines, high costs, and varying degrees of care quality.
“Before, I never went to the hospital. Only now am I going here. It was too difficult to line up so early in the morning to wait to get a ticket. Here it is much easier, much more comfortable and peaceful,” she said.
Miriam has a newborn daughter, and receives regular medical checkups at a “Mi Salud” clinic.
All of the 150 doctors who work in El Alto as part of the “Mi Salud” program were trained in Cuba as part of a scholarship exchange.
In addition to the clinics, doctors like Dr. Daniel Salinas make routine visits to households across the city.
He stated that, “Unfortunately, due the problems of our older health system, many people were mistreated. They did not receive adequate attention. They did not receive medicine, and the cost of treatment was very high. With the arrival of our program, Mi Salud, this has gotten better. We visit the houses of the families and we provide them with free medical attention and medicine, we are building this new trust with the residents.”
“Mi Salud” has expanded to all 9 of Bolivia's departments in both urban and rural areas, many of which have never had access to medical care before the arrival of the new program.