Plan September Friend: Chile’s Armed Forces Bring Healthcare to Civilians
By Dialogo September 30, 2015The operations carried out by these naval units should be increased to help coastal communities who need it so much.
Chile’s Armed Forces are providing healthcare to civilians in the country’s remote areas through Plan September Friend, a government-mandated initiative to decrease the wait times for consultations and surgeries with medical specialists.
The initiative, which also provides veterinary services to pets, “arose as a strategy to centralize efforts aimed at connecting with the communities in the most remote corners of our country,” said Lieutenant Colonel Raúl Rosas Álvarez, the Chilean Army’s public information section chief. “Localities chosen for 2015 include Belén in Arica; Colchane in Tarapacá; El Salado in Atacama; Caleta Tortel in Aysén; and Timaukel in Magallanes.”
Those locations mark an expansion of Plan September Friend's coverage over the years; in 2014, for instance, the Army provided medical services in Visviri in Region XV; Ollague in Region II; Punitaqui in Region IV; Pelluhe in Region VII; Lonquimay in Region IX; and O’Higgins village in Region XI.
Participation in the initiative also expanded this year with the addition of workers from Youth Without Borders – a student group from Chile's Catholic University that has done volunteer work in the country’s most remote areas since 2003 – as well as professors and dentistry and speech therapy students from the University of Pedro de Valdivia.
Social exercise in Belén
As part of Plan September Friend, the Army’s 6th Division undertook additional efforts in the village of Belén - the town’s plaza, repairing the town’s heritage monuments, and administering maintenance to homes and social centers. Those living in Belén and neighboring towns also received medical attention from doctors, midwives, dentists, nurses, and kinesiologists, while barbers and veterinarians provided their services along with public transportation personnel.
Belén, which is 3,200 meters above sea level and 140 kilometers from Arica in the province of Parinacota, has a population of no more than 50 people who mostly work in agriculture and raising livestock. Those residents welcomed the Armed Forces, according to Lieutenant Colonel Ignacio Garcia Bunsterel, Army operations director for institutional planning.
Continuing outreach to the civilian population
Plan September Friend continues a series of similar humanitarian intiatives administered by the Chilean Armed Forces.
On August 4, Undersecretary of the Chilean Armed Forces Gabriel Gaspar met with Health Minister Carmen Castillo to coordinate the Armed Forces’ support for the more than 1.5 million Chilean patients who have been waiting for consultations with medical specialists and the additional 186,000 who have been awaiting needed surgeries since before 2012. Minister Castillo also discussed the country's National Wait Time Plan, detailing progress made with each of the Plan’s three pillars: the optimization of patient care in response to demand; an overhaul of how patients are contacted; and the categorization of patients and their cases based on age and case complexity.
The National Wait Time Plan requires medical specialists for 33,000 hours of contract work. During the second part of 2015, the Chilean Armed Forces will carry out 19 projects with mobile clinics. Since March, 19,136 patients with extremely long wait times have benefited from these programs, according to the Defense Ministry’s most recent report.
Undersecretary Gaspar also highlighted the Air Force’s humanitarian mission on Easter Island in August, an initiative that’s been conducted annually for several years. Civil and Military authorities, including local hospital workers and elements of the Air Force’s and Eastern Metropolitan Health Service’s medical and dental teams, participated in the activities on Easter Island, which enhanced the connection between island residents and the mainland.