The rhythms of a delightful week of family and sightseeing and visiting were interrupted by word from the Junta Vigilancia de la Profesión Médica. I had given the Junta - the group charged with approving all doctors in the country, whether visitors or residents - notarized licenses and curriculum vitae for all our doctors in mid-December. Now in mid-January, they announced that all the documents lacked an apostille, and that without this they would not approve our medical mission.
For those of you who've never had to get one, an apostille is an official document of the state - in this case Washington or Oregon - which certifies that the notary who notarized the licences and CVs is indeed a legitimate notary. It can be obtained quickly, while you wait, but the offices are in the state capitals, Olympia and Salem, and the licences and CVs would have to be gathered again and notarized again. The requirement for an apostille has been on the Junta's list of requirements for some time, but it's never been enforced before. But here we were with new leadership of the Junta Vigilanicia, and they intend to enforce every requirement. And it wasn't at all clear that we would have time to get the apostilles before our group arrived.
In a fairly frantic day in San Salvador, Dina Duvon and I pled our case at length to the Doctora in charge of our application. We had brought mission groups down here for nine years without ever getting an apostille, we said, and there had been no problem. The people of San Juan Opico were waiting for their chance to get a free consulta, we said. The apostille wouldn't give them any additional guarantees, we said, since the licenses are already instruments of the state and the notary has affirmed that they were presented by the person named in the license. But it didn't do any good. We would have to get apostilles. In phone calls back and forth to Kathy Garcia and other PeaceHealth staff, we figured we might be able to get it done, barely, if everyone hustled their documents over to a notary again and hustled them to Kathy again, and she drove them to the state office and sent them to me by rapid express. Dina and I wrote a letter to the Junta, asking that they allow the mission to go forward even if the apostilled documents can't be presented to the Junta - which meets once a week - first. And we asked the Archbishop of San Salvador to write a letter of support, which he most kindly did.
And that's where it stands. Kathy is hustling and I'm continuing with the organizing here, and we're pretty sure we will have everything together before our mission group arrives, but we'd ask for the good wishes and prayers of anyone reading this. As I've thought this over, I understand that the Junta Vigilancia wants to make sure that any group of doctors that comes here is really legitimate, that they fear, and reasonably so, that the people of El Salvador will get a raw deal from unlicensed doctors or out-of-date medicines. I wish they had been more open to compromise, and perhaps after the new leaders have been in office a little longer they will not be so intransigent.
But most of all, I desire the outcome that will be good for everyone: our group approved and providing health care to people in San Juan Opico who have little access to care. If it takes an apostille, we'll provide an apostille.