When the USNS Comfort raises its anchor and sails out of the Gulf of Paria, crew members leave knowing that they’ve changed the lives of over 5,000 people through a week-long medical intervention.
It’s an accomplishment even the Prime Minister praised, although he said it was not an “indictment” on this country’s health care system.
The Comfort’s initial plan was to perform 100 surgeries aboard its hospital ship, but Captain Brian Diebold said that at the end of Monday, 115 ailing persons had procedures done.
Among them were impoverished Venezuelan migrants and 10 sick children, the youngest being 18 months old. They underwent surgeries to correct orthopaedic injuries, infected gall bladders, clef palates and cataracts.
Speaking to reporters at the closing ceremony of the Comfort’s visit to T&T at the Port of Brighton in La Brea yesterday, Captain Diebold said the medical staff exceeded its quota based on the need for surgeries.
“As of today, we’ve seen over 5000 people and conducted over 115 surgeries aboard the ship. That does not include the additional medical sites that were put together by the Ministry of Health and the local governments throughout Trinidad,” Diebold said.
Those figures were expected to increase yesterday as patients continued to undergo surgery aboard the ship. Many also visited the last of the clinics at the South-West Regional Indoor Sports Arena in Point Fortin and the Cedros Community Centre. Today, medical equipment is expected to be disassembled ahead of tomorrow’s departure for Grenada.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was impressed during a tour of the Comfort along with National Security Minister Stuart Young yesterday.
“It is more than we expected. The floating hospital Comfort is a marvel of medical services. I toured the ship this morning and it is, in fact, a real hospital. I think that we were lucky to be included in the programme. Five thousand people were able, in a few days, to access the best medical care available, I will say anywhere in the world because the ship is outfitted with virtually anything and everything you can want in a hospital. So we were very grateful to be given the opportunity, we grasped it with both hands and the staff has been very wonderful,” Rowley said.
He said the Comfort’s visit helped ease the burden on the public health system for the past week. And while many of those who accessed the Comfort’s service claimed that it was better, Rowley said that T&T has a very good health service.
“Having additional input like this is no indication of failure, it is an indication of additional support and additional service.”