A charity hospital in Guatemala that is sponsored mostly by Maltese donors has lost its only ambulance following an accident where a man lost his life and four other persons were injured.

The hospital, San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist) was opened recently following years of hard work by the Maltese parish priest and missionary Fr Joe Camilleri originally of Xewkija, Gozo.

Fr Camilleri was appointed parish priest of Jalpatagua in 1994 and quickly realised the need for a small hospital since the closest such facility was 45 miles away.

The opening of San Juan Bautista Hospital gave the people of the region some badly-needed respite in a country which ranks amongst the world's worst for healthcare - a major reason for the high infant mortality rate and low life expectancy.

Its only ambulance was used round the clock until the morning of September 20 when an emergency ambulance transfer of a patient to the country's capital, Guatemala City, ended in disaster when the ambulance skidded off the road while it was raining. The patient, Jorge Carceres, was killed, and the ambulance became a total loss.

Fr Camilleri has called for donations to replace the ambulance as soon as possible, saying other lives could be lost if medical assistance did not reach patients on time.

He can be contacted via his e-mail at pjosecamilleri@yahoo.es

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