A Hospital with No Water

A Hospital with No Water
March 23, 2016

The Louisville Water Foundation is helping make clean drinking water available at the oldest hospital in Honduras.

The Foundation, the charitable arm of Louisville Water Company, has provided a  $15,000 grant to the local nonprofit Water With Blessings to install water filtration sytems that will bring clean, drinkable water to the patients and staff at Hospital San Felipe in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Currently, if a patient there wants drinking water, his or her family members have to carry a bucket of it to the room themselves. That is, if they can find clean drinking water at all.

The Central American country is under a devastating drought and what potable water does exist is rationed out. First and most frequently it goes to the wealthiest residents. That means the impoverished communities served by Hospital San Felipe often go two or three weeks without being served by the local municipal water system.

This is a reality that most of us in the United States cannot begin to imagine.

“In Louisville, even the poorest among us drink freely in their hospital rooms,” says Sister Larraine Lauter, the founder of Water With Blessings. “We take that for granted. We don’t think twice.”

With its $15,000 Louisville Water Foundation grant, Water With Blessings is installing simple filtration systems that treat their local well water. The hospital is not one building but instead a series of small standalone buildings. That means providing access to the entire hospital is a challenge, so the project is taking a multi-phase approach that will eventually create an entire network that serves all departments. At this point in the project, direct access is available at certain departments, including pediatrics.

While this is not the first time outsiders have come into the Tegucigalpa hospital with intent of improving access to healthy water, Sister Larraine believes the Water With Blessings project differs because its comprehensive and simple.

“There have been a few attempts in the past where a foundation would help with renovating a particular department (at the hospital),” she explains. “Some were very sophisticated systems and couldn’t be sustained because there were complicated instructions.”

That means that when something broke, it couldn’t be fixed and locals were back to square one.

“People in this kind of situation can be used to groups not looking at broad picture,” says Sister Larraine. “It took a while to build that trust. That is why it is invaluable to be able to partner with the Louisville Water Foundation. They really understand looking at the entire scope, thinking strategically and staying with it for the long term. It’s not about going in and doing something flashy.”

Another big component of the project is the reeducation process. At Hospital San Felipe, the faucets connected to the new water filtration systems are painted bright blue to distinguish them from other taps that bring the undrinkable water they are used to. They have also placed explanatory signs next to the new faucets.

“It took me drinking the water and people gasping,” says Sister Larraine. “Their response is, ‘Are you sure?’ I say, “Yes. Watch! I’ll drink out of the tap!’”

Once they taste the water for themselves and realize it will not make them sick, the joy overwhelms them, says Sister Larraine.

“All those patient needs--water, food, meds--the family members must buy them and bring it back to them. So, even to say that drinkable water is right outside the door of the ward, that is huge.”