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Jalapa, an eastern Guatemalan state characterized by dry lands, volcanoes and glass pottery, today has one of the most modern ophthalmological hospitals in the Central American country.

Hundreds of people from this region are treated at no cost every day in this hospital named after Cuban national hero Jose Marti, where there are equipment and workers from the island.

"The hospital attracts large crowds," said its director, Rolando Meliam. "It has state-of-the art technology, two surgery rooms and our doctors can operate on around 40 to 45 patients a day."

"Currently," explained Meliam, "patients are being operated on for cataracts and pterygium, both having a high incidence in this region.

There are 18 Cuban specialists working in the hospital, among them, surgeons, ophthalmologists, optometrists, anaesthetists, nurses and specialists in general comprehensive medicine.

"We assist patients from Jalapa, Jutiapa, Santa Rosa and from places nearby," said the hospital director.

Meliam said he was surprised by the large amount of people in need for medical assistance, but "above all" by the gratitude of the residents.

Historically, the eastern part of Guatemala has been one of the poorest and most underdeveloped regions of the country, due to its dry climate and dry lands.

It is precisely due to this regions great need for medical assistance that this ophthalmological hospital was built two months ago to assist everyone from the eastern region.

Since its opening on January 27, more than 800 patients have been operated on, reported Alberto Hernandez, the Guatemala coordinator of Operation Miracle - a program sponsored by Cuba and Venezuela that has restored the eyesight of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

The Jose Marti Hospital is now the second of its kind in Guatemala since the opening of the Jose Joaquin Palma hospital in August. That hospital was built in the northern state of Alta Verapaz, where more than 6,400 patients have been operated on, noted Hernandez.

The Guatemalan authorities expressed their gratitude to Cuba for these two hospitals, which have improved the number and quality of health services in the poorest areas of the country.

Source: BY Carmen Esquivel, Granma

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