As Eustasio Rodríguez Rosales’s vision started to fade, so did his job prospects.
If he couldn’t see, he couldn’t work. Eyeglasses would easily solve the problem, but in the mountainous region of northeastern Mexico where Rosales lives, the nearest clinic is about 150 miles away.
“Here we lack many services, and the underprivileged and humble lack the means or economic resources to go where the service is provided,” Rosales says. “You have Seguro Popular, which is the (health insurance) they give poor people. But you ask for a consultation, and they give you an appointment for a month from now. The disease does not wait.”
Enter the health brigade: five mobile health clinics that bring free medical, vision, and dental care to isolated communities in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range.
On a hot day in April, Rosales joined patients from 15 surrounding communities who traveled to General Zaragoza, Nuevo Leon, to receive treatment, including specialized services such as pediatric and gynecological care.
The health brigade is a program of Cáritas de Monterrey, a branch of the Catholic humanitarian organization Cáritas International. The brigade has delivered free health care to underserved areas since 1985 and today it serves 58 suburban and 22 rural communities in Nuevo León, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas, as well as five prisons in Monterrey.
Besides examining and caring for patients, the traveling clinics distribute medicine, conduct preventive screenings, and give nutritional advice. When the brigade encounters patients it can’t treat, it refers them to hospitals or clinics at low or no cost to the patients, through an agreement with the Ministry of Health, Seguro Popular, and Cáritas de Monterrey’s health network. In 2016, the health brigade benefited 20,000 people.