Chilean Navy Collaborates in Acrux Chiloé 2017 Healthcare Operation
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo June 06, 2017The Chilean Navy and the Acrux Foundation, a Chilean nonprofit that provides medical care in remote areas, conducted a joint operation in several communities from April 28th to 30th. The team of 76 physicians, assisted by nurses and technicians, treated nearly half of the people on waiting lists in the nation’s southern region. “This medical, surgical, and telemedicine initiative has reduced the waiting list in Chiloé by 47 percent. Currently, there are huge healthcare inequities; 1.8 million Chileans are waiting to be seen by a specialist,” Chilean Navy Reserve Lieutenant Commander Roberto Levín, executive director of the Acrux Foundation, told Diálogo. The service members ferried health specialists to the islands of Laitec, Mechuque, and Maulin, in the Chiloé Archipelago, on the patrol ship PSG-71 Micalvi, in order to aid people unable to afford medical care. Meanwhile, another team of specialists provided care at medical centers in the communities of Ancud, Castro, and Quellón, also in Chiloé, according to a press release published by the organization. “It was an enriching experience because we collaborated with those remote communities and hundreds of people were served,” Lieutenant Commander Mario Valenzuela, the captain of PSG-71 Micalvi, told Diálogo. The deployment of personnel, logistics, and equipment allowed for more than 4,000 free medical services to be provided, including consultations, surgeries, and other medical procedures in specialties such as cardiology, endoscopy, ophthalmology, gynecology, otorhinolaryngology, dermatology, traumatology, geriatrics, and neurology. An essential component “We could not have moved ahead with this mission without the help of the Navy. Its collaboration is vital,” Lt. Cmdr. Levín stated. The medical mission also had the support of the Ministry of Health, the regional government of Chiloé, the University of Concepción, and several private businesses. “It is greatly satisfying to be a part of [these] healthcare operations, and to be the nexus between entities seeking to aid the most vulnerable population in the region [of Chiloé], who have been waiting for medical evaluations for some time,” Captain Leonardo Chávez Alvear, director of communications for the Chilean Navy, told Diálogo. The Navy has the personnel, equipment, and infrastructure, as well as the capacity and the organization, to carry out a range of medical support actions. This mission is made possible thanks to several units, such as the ship LSDH-91 Sargento Aldea, also known as a floating hospital, which led the first humanitarian aid exercise in the region of Arica, in northern Chile in 2015. On that occasion, the Chilean Navy and the Acrux Foundation provided free healthcare to 10,000 people. They also worked together in the first Acrux 2015 healthcare operation in Chiloé. The cooperation effort between the Navy and the nonprofit began in 2005 with the signing of an agreement. Since that time, the institutions have carried out 67 operations of this kind, conducting 76,000 medical consultations in several regions of the country. In 2016, they worked together on seven healthcare missions that provided medical care to more than 10,000 patients. “The Acrux Foundation trains civilian physicians in the military culture so that surgeries can be performed aboard the ships,” Lt. Cmdr. Levín said. For its part, the Navy is carrying out a range of medical and dental support actions in the region. The patrol ship PMD-74 Cirujano Videla provides monthly medical and dental assistance in Chiloé and in the southern channels, as far as the Puerto Edén area. “In times of peace, the Armed Forces must be prepared to assist the civilian community. An example of that is the Chilean Army’s work with the foundation,” Lt. Cmdr. Valenzuela said. “The people feel a closer relationship to the Navy and they are grateful for the aid that it provides in bringing in naval doctors, former officers, and civilian physicians to participate in these kinds of activities.” A glance into the future In 2017 the institutions are scheduled to conduct five healthcare operations: two on Robinson Crusoe Island, one in Arica, another on Mocha and Santa María islands, and in December, in Natales, Porvenir, and Port Williams. Additionally, the civilian foundation plans to acquire a hospital ship with the support of the Navy to increase its medical care capacity. In addition, a virtual hospital is in the works. Through telemedicine, specialists can serve patients on an ongoing basis, contributing to a greater reduction in outpatient waiting lists.