Southern Partnership Station 2011 Medical Team Visits Island in El Salvador
By Dialogo February 28, 2011
A U.S. Navy medical team and U.S. Marine Corps engineers visited the Unidad de Salud medical clinic on the island of Zacatillo, El Salvador, to assess public health needs in support of Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2011, on 17 February.
The three Sailors and two Marines took a 30-minute boat ride from Puerto Corsain, El Salvador, to meet with medical officials at their sole medical clinic to discuss capabilities and limitations for providing quality medical care to 2,000 island residents.
“Basically, we wanted to see firsthand how they provide care, and evaluate our ability to work together and partner to provide the best public health for the men, women and children who live here,” said Cmdr. David Blazes, SPS 2011 senior medical officer.
“We view this as a positive step toward improving the services we offer our patients,” said Karen Ivania Ponce, Unidad de Salud primary care provider. “Our resources and funding are very limited, so we often face challenges which make it difficult to do our jobs.”
After a briefing and tour of the facility by Ponce and her staff, the service members’ attention shifted toward key concerns by island residents and medical clinic staff.
“The biggest problem we face here is potable water,” said Rafael Antonio Martinez, Unidad de Salud head nurse practitioner. “We have three wells used to provide water throughout the island, but we don’t have a quality filtering system, which allows bacteria and disease to travel through our water.”
Because of the uncertainty and lack of ability to produce purified water, all residents are required to boil their water prior to consumption. There is also a limit on production capabilities, and residents are only provided with 18 gallons of water per week. The water provided is used for bathing, cooking, cleaning and drinking.
“This is a very important issue here, because water is critical to life,” said Corp. Robert Wrobleski, 2nd Marine Logistics Group water support technician. “We’re evaluating their equipment and procedures, and offering recommendations to improve their filtering process.”
“Hopefully being able to walk through the streets of our town, and see our wells and purification process, will help in developing a joint plan to end this problem and provide limitless clean water to our people,” said Ponce.
The team of service members spent five hours on the island walking and talking with residents prior to heading back to High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) to draft plans and document recommendations.
“There is so much value in these site assessments, because it allows us to gain an in-depth knowledge of how and what we can do, to provide assistance and continue to build and sustain enduring relationships with the El Salvadorian government,” said Blazes.
SPS 11 is an annual deployment of U.S. ships to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility in the Caribbean and Latin America. The mission’s primary goal is information sharing with navies, coast guards and civilian services throughout the region.
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (COMUSNAVSO), is the naval component command for U.S. Southern Command and is responsible for all naval personnel and assets in the area of responsibility. COMUSNAVSO conducts a variety of missions in support of the U.S. maritime strategy, including theater security cooperation, relationship building, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, community relations, and counter-illicit trafficking operations.