Chilean Navy’s ‘Floating Hospital’ Treats 6,000 Patients in Patagonia
By Dialogo December 10, 2012
SANTIAGO — The Chilean Navy has wrapped up Operation Machitún Antares 2012 — its largest medical mission ever — examining and treating more than 6,000 patients aboard the naval vessel Sargento Aldea.
The mission, completed Oct. 22, provided urgently needed health care to inhabitants across the remote IX Aysén Region, in Chile’s extreme southern Patagonia. Navy official Sandra Paredes said the $2 million operation, partly financed through private donations, slashed waiting lists in some locations by more than 30 percent.
Federico Jara Cartes, commander of the Naval Reserve, said his 74-member team of ophthalmologists, gynecologists, dentists, dermatologists, cardiologists, orthopedists, implant specialists and midwives provided health care to 6,272 patients. In addition, the physicians installed hearing aids and donated lenses, dental supplies and drugs.
“There was a perfect symbiosis among the Navy, reservists, doctors, dentists and technologists, generous souls who came together to aid our vulnerable citizens in isolated areas such as Aysen, Coyhaique, Mañiguales and Puerto Chacabuco,” said Cartes.
He added that physicians aboard ship examined patients, then emailed X-rays to private clinics in Santiago where results were available in less than five minutes. Navy doctors also performed several surgeries at hospitals in Aysén and Coyhaique.
When the Navy acquired the Sargento Aldea (LSDH-91) last year, it said the amphibious assault ship would be used for humanitarian as well as military purposes. Besides defending Chile’s sovereignty, the Navy also transports passengers throughout Patagonia, especially during the school year and during emergencies and natural disasters.
Now the third-largest vessel in the Chilean Navy, the Sargento Aldea carries two helicopters and can reach speeds of 20 knots, said Parades.
She said this “floating hospital” has 224 crew members and can carry up to 1,300 people. The ship’s hospital area alone has 51 beds, two operating rooms, a dental clinic, an X-ray room, a burn unit, a biology lab and 12 decks, three of them under the water line.
Paredes, citing the participation of regional governments and the Chilean Ministry of Health, said in one day alone, medical personnel treated 25 people living on Maitén, Quellin, Guar and other islands.
“We were very pleased to assist these patients in remote areas,” said team member Juan Salazar, a surgeon attached to the Naval Reserve.
I am proud of you humanity and kindless to people who relly need your support from all the Chilean navy and reserve.
I would hope other south american countries will learn from all of you.