US Physicians Provide Medical Assistance To Panamanians On The Hospital Ship “Comfort”
By Dialogo June 01, 2009The US Navy Hospital Ship “Comfort” will provide free medical care to Panamanians as part of a humanitarian assistance tour throughout the Caribbean, Central America and Colombia. During the opening ceremonies for the “Comfort”, the US Ambassador to Panama, Barbara Stephenson, emphasized the “top quality medical care that will be offered to hundreds of Panamanians”. She also pointed out the history of collaboration in the area of Health Care between the two countries, starting with the eradication of Yellow Fever during the construction of the Panama Canal at the start of the 20th century, to providing systems for drinking water and medical care to communities with difficult access to health care. The ship, which will be anchored at the port of Cristóbal, in the city of Colón, in the Panamanian Caribbean, until 01 June, will provide free medical care for general surgery, orthopedics, urology, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, optometry, pharmacy services, otolaryngology, gastroenterology, pediatrics and general medicine. The “Comfort” will have a crew comprised of 925 members from France, Canada, Holland, Spain and the United States. The ship is 275 meters long, has 12 hospital wards and the space capacity for up to 1000 hospital beds. According to the Clinical Supplies Director for the Panamanian Ministry of Health, Mario Rodríguez, the presence of the ship in the region “will help to reduce the waiting lists (for patients) in the public health sector”. As part of the “Comfort’s” program, medical, personal hygiene and school supplies valued at $400,000 will be distributed to Panamanian non-profit organizations such as Aldeas SOS, Casa Esperanza, Rememi and Reintegra. These supplies have been donated by different non-government organizations throughout the United States. Last April 1st, the ship “Comfort” set sail from Norfolk, Virginia (United States), and it visited Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Antigua and Barbuda, and afterwards it went from Panama towards Colombia, El Salvador and Nicaragua. In 2007, the American vessel conducted a mission throughout 12 Latin American countries, where more than 169,000 patients were attended and 1500 operations were performed. A total of 20 million dollars was earmarked in order to cover the expenses of this two year mission, according to information provided by the US Embassy in Panama.