Photo: Hospital Infantil de las Californias
Through the Hospital Infantil de las Californias, which she co-founded in 1994, Dr. Elizabeth G. Jones has helped thousands of children on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Located in the Mexican state of Baja California just a half-mile from San Diego’s Otay Mesa border crossing, the hospital serves children from low-income families.
The Canadian-born Jones told Efe that she began her work in Mexico 35 years ago, after a Spanish class at the University of San Diego where a nun urged her to do volunteer work south of the border.
“I’ve never been able to say ‘no’ to a nun. I told her my Spanish wasn’t good enough, and she told me to look after my nutrition and the Spanish would take care of itself,” she laughed.
Jones says that life in Tijuana, the Mexican metropolis next door to San Diego, “is hard for families, especially those of single moms. A lot of kids have no access to medical care, and they need the chance to become full members of society.”
Since basic health care in Tijuana is chiefly provided by neighborhood clinics, according to the doctor, HIC specializes in the more intricate procedures.
The HIC’s final phase, whose inauguration is planned for mid-2012, will offer emergency care with additional operating rooms and short-term hospitalization, Mario Medina de la Torre, director of institutional development at the Foundation for the Children of the Californias, which administers the hospital, told Efe.
Jones said that HIC charges about half what Tijuana clinics do and that the poorest families pay nothing.
HIC currently treats close to 25,000 people per year, though it aims to double that number, according to Medina de la Torre.
The hospital offers dental services, a pharmacy, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and has a swimming pool for therapy, a laboratory, radiology department, and even an educational center.
Jones said that the hospital also has programs on preventive care and healthy living.
Alejandro Rivera received a free operation through the foundation when he was 17 that allowed him to stretch his tendons and lengthen his legs to remedy a congenital problem.
Rivera, now 31, told Efe that HIC promotes social unity, meaning that even though he did not pay anything to defray the expenses of his treatment, he has remained an active volunteer in fundraising campaigns and spreading the word about the hospital on both sides of the border.