The US Navy Hospital Ship “Comfort” will dock next Monday, for the purpose of conducting a humanitarian assistance mission throughout the Caribbean, Central America and Colombia.
Representatives from the Panamanian Ministry of Health (Minsa) and from the U.S. Embassy in this country indicated today during the press conference that the ship will be anchored in the Port of Cristóbal in the city of Colón, in the Panamanian Caribbean.
The primary objective of this visit, which was conducted for the first time in 2007, is to provide free medical assistance and to improve some of the health infrastructure of this Central American country.
The “Comfort” will have a crew comprised of 925 members from France, Canada, Holland, Spain and the United States; 121 of the crew members are physicians, each one of them being able to examine up to 60 patients each, as explained by the Southern Command’s Surgeon General and Ship’s Captain, Miguel Cubano.
The ship, which will be in Panama for 7 days, is 275 meters long, has 12 hospital wards and the space capacity for up to 1000 hospital beds.
According to Cubano, all types of general surgery, pediatric and orthopedic operations will be performed on the ship, except for neurosurgical interventions and vascular surgery.
Last April 1st, the ship “Comfort” set sail from Norfolk, Virginia (Unites States), and it visited Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Antigua and Barbuda, and afterwards it went from Panama towards Colombia, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
The Clinical Supplies Director for the Panamanian Ministry of Health, Mario Rodríguez, stated that the ship did not come to Panama due to the increase in the number of cases of Influenza Type A.
“The arrival of the ship is a coincidence, an activity that we had been coordinating for several months before the epidemic occurred. It did not happen because Panama had requested the US help with the influenza epidemic. It just arrived in a moment of humanitarian emergency,” Rodriguez said.
In 2007, the American vessel conducted a mission throughout 12 Latin American countries, where more than 169,000 patients were assisted 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.