Overcoming Transportation Barriers to Healthcare on the Frontier


2018 marks the seventh consecutive year that MAG has partnered with International Health Service of Minnesota (IHS) to bring a major medical outreach to the Honduran region of LaMosquitia.  Hosting one of IHS’s largest teams at MAG’s Rus Rus Hospital, this annual “brigade” delivers medical, dental, optical, and surgical care to 10-20 percent of the region’s population each year. 


During the seven clinic days, the team saw 374 dental patients, 944 medical patients, and 194 eye patients—a total of 1512 patient visits. These were men, women, and children, often entire families, who had travelled on foot from villages on both sides of the Honduras-Nicaragua border, some walking for a day or more, just to see a doctor or a dentist.  

Among this number were also 21 surgical patient transfers— those who had to be taken to the IHS surgical team set-up in the town of Puerto Lempira. That’s not unusual. This year however, unlike previous years, MAG had no airplane available to provide air support, logistics, and emergency evacuation and especially, surgical patient transport. With MAG’s Cessna 206 aircraft in the US for a required overhaul, the only other option was difficult and dangerous ground transportation by truck. 


The trip from Rus Rus to Puerto Lempira, just 25 minutes by air, is 4-6 hours on dirt roads and across several rivers. The all-day round trip, beyond the physical stress to a critical patient, also renders the truck, the only mode of emergency evacuation, unavailable for a day or more every time the trip is made. This week saw eight trips.  (For a patient requiring evacuation to a larger hospital in the city, there are actually NO options, as this part of Honduras is not connected to the interior by road.)


This year, MAG’s Director of Pastoral Ministry, and current Honduras Program Director, Carlos Paz, was joined by Aaron Hammitt, one of MAG’s pilot-mechanic apprentices. For Aaron, now in the final stages of his training to become a full-time missionary field pilot, this was a great opportunity to get out on the “front lines” where MAG is working, and to see the ministry in Rus Rus first-hand. These barriers to patient transport highlighted the critical need for missionary aviation. 


The need for airplanes and missionary pilots was really driven home when a young boy came into the clinic with a life-threatening intestinal restriction. The doctor immediately put him on a truck.  In this case, he and his father only had to endure four hours in the back of a truck, making it to Puerto Lempira where a successful surgery was carried out. But if the truck hadn't been available, or if the road had been impassable, or if his condition had been even more urgent, the outcome could have been different.

Funding is needed (approximately $160,000) to complete the overhaul and re-deployment of the MAG aircraft to Honduras. Please contact us if you can help with this critical need.

Wonderful video by Aaron Hammitt highlighting this year’s MAG-HIS brigade.