Chilean Navy Supports First Chiloé 2015 Acrux Medical Operation

Chilean Navy Supports First Chiloé 2015 Acrux Medical Operation

By Dialogo
November 20, 2015

Such pride to have a branch of our armed forces whose objectives are so noble and so professional

In its quest to improve the quality of life for Chiloé Island residents and improve healthcare nationwide, Chilean's Navy and the non-profit Acrux Foundation conducted the First Chiloé 2015 Acrux Medical Operation from October 9-12 with support from the Ministry of Health.

Eighty-one physicians, who were supported by nurses, medical technicians and 467 sailors on the Navy’s Sergeant Aldea LSDH-91 Multipurpose Vessel, provided 5,106 medical services, including traumatology, internal medicine, surgery, cardiology, endocrinology, ophthalmology, gynecology, gastroenterology, pediatrics, geriatrics, dermatology, and neurology.

“We wanted to help improve access to healthcare for the local population,” Rear Admiral Guillermo Lüttges Mathieu, head of the operation and Chief Commander of the Fifth Naval Zone, said of the operation that reduced the waiting list for medical services by 40 percent. “It’s one of the areas of the country that has the greatest dearth of specialists. A large number of patients wait for consults or outpatient surgeries that local hospitals simply cannot provide.”

Chiloé Island – an archipelago in southern Chile – is 1,186 kilometers from the Chilean capital of Santiago and 96 kilometers from the mainland. Since it's most easily accessed by a ferry that operates periodically, some patients must wait two years to see a doctor.

“With this exercise, Chiloé residents were able to receive timely and quality care without having to leave the island,” Chonchi Mayor Pedro Andrade said.

The Chiloé 2015 Acrux Medical Operation was part of an ongoing collaboration between the Chilean Navy and the Acrux Foundation, which relies on volunteer physicians to conduct six major health-based events throughout the country annually.

The next event is scheduled for December 4-8 on Juan Fernández Island in northern Chile, when the Naval ship Piloto Pardo is expected to participate in a stop where physicians plan on satisfying more than 1,000 appointments.

A mobile medical center

Physicians on Chiloé Island provided much of the medical care aboard the Sergeant Aldea, which has 500 square meters of floor space, 51 beds, two operating rooms, a dental clinic, two X-ray rooms, a bio-analysis lab, and a burn unit. Additional medical care was administered on the Navy patrol boat PMD-74 Surgeon Videla, which participated in this type of operation for the first time. The vessel traveled between 32 and 76 nautical miles while providing geriatric, pediatric, neurological, and gynecological care to patients on the islands of Laitec, Alao, and Mechueque that are within the Chiloé Island archipelago.

The Navy also used two Defender and two Archangel motorboats to transport patients from the most remote areas to treatment centers on land and on the ships, with a Dauphin helicopter used in case of emergencies. Additionally, the health team treated patients in hospitals in the island communities of Ancud, Castro, and Quellón, and at the Family Health Center in Chonchi.

“Logistical support from the Navy allowed us to reach seven Chiloé cities during this operation," ACRUX Foundation Executive Director Roberto Levín said. "Had their support not been there, this would not have been possible."

Surgeries aboard the Sergeant Aldea

Navy personnel supported a wide range of surgeries aboard the Sergeant Aldea, including 235 endoscopic procedures, 272 abdominal ultrasounds, 48 tonsillectomies, and 30 ophthalmological surgeries; medical personnel also provided ophthalmological and cardiological consultations.

Typically, medical centers on the island refer patients requiring special care to hospitals elsewhere in Chile, such as in Puerto Montt, Osorno, or Concepción, or to medical centers in Santiago.

“I am so thankful for this opportunity given to my son,” said Cristina Alvarado, whose son waited two years to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. “It is going to improve his quality of life, given that he has been sick for a very long time.”