USNS Comfort offers its services to the Belizean Community

Friday, April 17th, 2015

The US Naval Hospital Ship, the USNS Comfort, is in Belize for nine days providing medical, dental, and veterinary care among several other services. The ship docked nine miles off the coast of Belize on Thursday, April 9th, and has since been working in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Belize Defense Force, and the Belize Coast Guard to train personnel in conducting civil-military operations, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, while providing medical assistance and even engineering support to the local population. The visit to Belize is part of USNS Comfort’s spring tour, Continuing Promise Mission 2015, to provide services to ports across the Caribbean, Central and South America.15 US Naval Hospital Ship
In order to carry out the activities, USNS Comfort personnel set up an outpatient medical station in Hattieville Government School and Independence High School. Residents could visit either location for one free medical or dental service each day. “The crew and staff of the USNS Comfort will work with their Belizean counterparts on a range of issues including health and transport responders. NGO’s like the Latter Day Saints, charities and the message program have donated three hundred and twenty nine pallets of medical and humanitarian supplies and over a million dollars’ worth of services to help the citizens of Belize. We look forward to the positive impact at the Ladyville Health Center, Independence Polyclinic and Bella Vista Health Center. We are also excited for our planned environmental and veterinary exchanges at Belize Agriculture and Health Authority (BAHA) and the Belize Zoo, just to name a few of the activities that we are doing over the course of the next two weeks,” said Lieutenant General Kenneth Tovo, US Army Deputy Commander at the US Southern Command.
Those requiring major medical treatment also had the opportunity to receive surgery on board the USNS Comfort. Patients with conditions requiring advanced treatment were screened at the Karl Huesner Memorial Hospital in Belize City before being admitted aboard the USNS Comfort. The screening was for USNS Comfort medical team to assess whether or not patients would be fit for surgery and if the required recovery time was one that would be feasible with the crew’s timetable. The vessel has 11 operating theatres and a number of professional surgeons that can cater to any type of surgery. “When the ship is at a maximum capacity for patients, we can take up to 1,000 patients, if we were configured with staffing for that. Approximately 100 patients were pre-screened and then taken down to the ship where we performed the surgeries. Each of the patients came out with an escort, the night before, to get customized to the ship, relax a little bit and then we started the surgeries the morning after their arrival. The patients stayed on board the ship for the necessary time, depending upon what the procedures are and then discharged,” said Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon, Captain William Todd.15 US Naval Hospital Ship-1
Apart from the listed services, USNS Comfort personnel also took the time to visit rural schools, bringing the children small gifts such as shoes, sports equipment and stationary. Over 100 pallets of medical supplies were also distributed across the country at the various public clinics. “We have quite a large amount of supplies that will be given out. There are medical supplies that will be utilized at the medical sites. There are engineering supplies for the building sites where we will be doing some fairly small engineering projects and then there is also a lot of donated goods that came with our NGO partners, some of which are home-based in Belize, that we’ve also brought their teams on board. There’s a number of donations, things from hospital equipment, beds, formularies and all types of things that we’ll be bringing ashore. It’s a critical piece in building the continuing partnerships between Belize and the United States. This mission is one of many that we conduct together, but I think it already has some of the biggest impacts without a doubt,” said Mission Commander of Continuing Promise Mission 2015, Captain Sam Hancock.
USNS Comfort is one of the largest hospital ships in the world with over 1,000 crew members. The ship is scheduled to depart from Belize on Saturday, April 18th.


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