Providing sustainable, accessible, and compassionate healthcare to the people of the Rio Napo in the Peruvian Amazon basin.
Through the Santa Clotilde hospital and its outposts, we will support the provision of healthcare services, medical education, and research through opportunities created by local and international partnerships.
We are guided by the values of compassion, respect, social justice, and the call to serve.
Pango Canada exists to support and sustain Centro de Salud Santa Clotilde and its outposts, which provide health care along the Rio Napo in the Peruvian Amazon, by:
- Creating national and international partnerships
- Supporting special projects
- Providing medical education and research opportunities
CSSC is situated in the Amazon jungle of northeast Peru, midway between the city of Iquitos and the border with Ecuador on the Napo River (see map below). It is accessible only by boat or, less commonly, by float plane. The nearest major city is Iquitos, which itself is accessible only by boat or by plane.
To understand the remoteness of this clinic: routine travel from Iquitos to Santa Clotilde begins with a high-speed public boat (“rapido”) down the Rio Amazonas to the town of Mazan (duration 1.5 hours). Mazan represents an isthmus where the Rio Napo and the Rio Amazonas come into close approximation. Crossing the isthmus by motorcycle-taxi to the Rio Napo side of Mazan takes approximately 20 minutes. From there it is a 4-6 hour trip on a second rapido to Santa Clotilde, the duration varying according to strength of current, number of stops, and whether one is traveling upstream (towards Santa Clotilde) or downstream.
Functions of CSSC
CSSC is the referral center for what is known as the “Micro Red Napo”. The Micro Red Napo region is a chain of 12 rural health outposts extending in both directions up and down the Rio Napo. Its functions include public, community and acute care, as well as prevention through vaccination programs and health education. There is a communication tower in each of the outposts allowing for direct telecommunication to Santa Clotilde. Santa Clotilde serves as the primary center for supplies, patient referrals, and logistical support. There is a house in Lima for terminal and other patients who require extended treatments.
Directors of CSSC
The clinic is run by Fr. John “Jack” MacCarthy, OPraem, MD from Wisconsin and Fr. Maurice Schroeder, OMI, MD from Saskatchewan. The two have devoted nearly three decades of their lives transforming a small rural clinic to a central facility of over 30 inpatient beds with a dozen smaller clinics along a stretch of 400 kilometers of the Napo. Being in such a remote area is a hindrance because it is easily forgotten. The priests struggle to keep going with limited private funding, constant struggles with the Peruvian government and now with a local Canadian oil company decimating this area for oil exploration and taxing the hospital with very severe industrial accidents. They have tried for years to groom young Peruvian doctors to stay; however, using low tech equipment, being isolated from the mainstream world and getting paid in chickens requires a special calling to dedicate their life to this type of existence.
The People We Help
Life is hard in the jungles of Peru. This is an impoverished, disenfranchised population of predominantly indigenous people. Approximately 15,000 people belonging to over 100 villages live on or near the river banks and tributaries of this region. The majority eke out a living through subsistence agriculture, hunting and fishing. People live in stilted wood huts to stay above the waters during flood seasons. They burn an open fire to boil water, or cook a simple meal of plantain and occasionally fish. The Napo is their water source for drinking, cooking, cleaning and toileting. Parasitic diseases are rampant. These infections greatly affect the children’s ability to learn, grow and fight other infections. People who fall ill outside of Santa Clotilde sometimes endure days of travel in a small canoe to reach medical help.
The Centro de Salud Santa Clotilde (CSSC) and the Civil Association PANGO have a long background history. To appreciate the historical and cultural context of this part of the Peruvian Amazon, the reading of its historical review in the Blog “Es mi Perú: Reseña Histórica del Distrito del Napo (Loreto)” by Prof. Marcelo Sifuentes Chapilliquen is recommended. The highlights of this history are:
- The native epoch
- 1904: The Ecuadorian rubber baron Patricio Mosquero founds the settlement of Santa Clotilde.
- 1935: In Peru’s effort to populate the zone with settlers in the context of the Ecuador-Peru border conflicts (finally settled in 1941) even foreigners were encouraged to take land holdings. Thus the German Gaulterio Frass von Wolfeneg was granted the lands of Santa Clotilde by the Peruvian Government to establish an agricultural station.
- 1946: After the Second World War and coincidental with the founding of the Vicariato Apostólico San José del Amazonas (VASJA) the Agricultural Station of Santa Clotilde is given in charge by the Government of Peru to the Canadian Franciscans. The Franciscans are made responsible for services of land distribution, education and health, among others.
- 1951: The Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Angels, (m.n.d.a.), of Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada take on the works of education and health in Santa Clotilde, providing medical attention to the river population for 40 years (until 1991) under the direction of the following nurse-nuns:
- Sister St. Rémi (Lucie Roy) 1951 – 1958
- Sister St. Françoise Cabrini (Thérèse Hubert) 1989 a 1977 & 1980-82
- Sister St. Bernadette (Alice Dubé) 1961-1964
- Sister St. Clement (Simone Bélisle) 1969 & 1974-75
- Sister St. Richard (Hélène Sawyer) 1978 & 1980-82
- Sister Germaine Daigle 1982-83
- Sister Colette Cournoyer 1984-85 & 1989-91
- Sister Nery Rivadeneyra 1985-6
- Sister Nora Flores Usseglio 1986-88
In recognition of this congregation’s 40 years of health care service, in 1991 the Bishop of the VASJA, Monseñor Alberto Campos Hernandez, O.F.M., dedicated the CSSC under the name of “Nery Rivadeneyra Ramos”.
Sister Nery Rivadeneyra Ramos, m.n.d.a., was born on the Río Napo in 1953, and grew up in Santa Clotilde. After studying nursing she entered the Congregation m.n.d.a. as a religious. She served as nurse-director of the CSSC in 1985-86, the year in which Fr. Jack MacCarthy arrived in Santa Clotilde. She was later sent to the congregation’s missions in Africa, where she contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system. She died in 1997 at the age of 44.
In 1986, the present phase of medical service in Santa Clotilde began with the arrival of the priest-doctors John (Jack) MacCarthy, O.Praem., M.D., and Maurice Schroeder, O.M.I., M.D. thus having permanent doctors in Santa Clotilde, who established the present de facto rural hospital, and began hospitalizations with a surgical service.
Working under a formal agreement between the VASJA represented by the local Bishop and the Ministry of Health represented by the DISA, Loreto, the CSSC is directed by Fr. Jack MacCarthy, with the support of the DISA (Dirección de Salud), later called the DIRESA (Dirección Regional de Salud).
The growth in demand for services has been constant during the 25 years of operation. At present the CSSC is head of the network (Micro-Red Napo) of 12 health establishments extending from the border with Ecuador to Tutapishco, approaching the Río Amazonas down river from Santa Clotilde. There are over 400 km. of river with some 100 “caseríos” or villages. The past 25 years have seen epidemics of hepatitis, cholera, malaria and recently of dengue fever. Tuberculosis is endemic and HIV increasingly common.
The CSSC does emergency surgeries, such as Cesarean sections and appendectomies, medicine consults, pediatrics, and gyne-obstetrics. Hospitalizations are about 800 per year. Back-up transferences are made to Iquitos (1 day of river travel) or to Lima (tertiary care patients) where, if they are out-patients, they are received in a house of the Norbertine Fathers which is maintained for that purpose, and assisted by Sr. Manuel Trudel.
The growth has resulted in a proportionate growth in personnel (approx. 35 health workers in the CSSC and another 30 in the out-lying health establishments). Approximately 70% of the personnel are contracted by the DIRESA. The CSSC has always had an active participation in the community life of the river settlements and the civil society. (See “Strategic Alliances”).
The buildings have undergone modifications and expansions, notably the construction of housing for personnel, the construction of a 22 bed hospital wing in 2007 (present total capacity: 40 patients) and currently a project for housing for doctors.
In 2008 Fr. Maurice was re-assigned by his congregation to Lima in an administrative role in the Congregation. Fr. Jack continues the service with the help of several doctors and professional personnel.
During 2004 and 2005 the influence of Dr. Kerry Telford, and of others, put a focus on the importance of giving an “institutional” structure to this work in order to preserve it for the benefit of the Napo river population "after the priest-doctors". For this purpose, in 2010 the Civil Association PANGO was formed.