The USNS Comfort hospital ship of the United States Navy is in Panama to go to Colombia, after fulfilling a mission of humanitarian medical assistance in Ecuador and Peru.
The ship, which arrived this Thursday, is docked in the Port of Balboa, on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal, in the Panamanian capital, and is scheduled to depart next Sunday towards Turbo (Antioquia) and Riohacha (La Guajira) , in Colombia, to attend medical consultations and practice surgeries.
Ship personnel and the US Embassy in Panama organized a guided tour of the ship, with the participation of the Vice Minister of Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of the Panamanian Foreign Ministry, María Luisa Navarro, and the Deputy Minister of Health, Eric Ulloa.
In his medical mission last month in Ecuador and Peru, USNS Comfort medical staff treated 10,000 people who needed medical help, Capt. William Shafley III told reporters on a tour of his medical facilities.
Patients from these two countries who were treated at this floating hospital underwent surgeries, dental and lens work.
This is the sixth mission performed by the US school ship. in Central and South America, and his third visit to Panama – from where he left for Esmeralda, Ecuador, and Peru – on October 18.
The Chargé d'Affaires of the US embassy in Panama, Roxanne Cabral, highlighted the humanitarian work of the US Navy hospital ship, and explained that her mission in this trip is to support the health systems of the region "that they are under enormous pressure due to the arrival of Venezuelan refugees and migrants. "
Shafley acknowledged that "we do not know how many (patients) Venezuelans saw" at their stop in Ecuador and Peru.
But he did specify that in total the medical mission – which on this occasion will fulfill the school ship in the region, which, in addition to Ecuador and Peru, includes Colombia and Honduras – will last a total of 70 days.
As to whether the humanitarian work they will do in Honduras has to do with the crisis of Honduran migrants who are heading in caravan to the United States, Shafley clarified that the medical mission that the ship has in progress in the region "was selected before this situation will worsen ".
The ship will depart next Sunday for Colombia, where it is expected to arrive on November 14 at Turbo (Antioquia), and on the 24th at Riohacha (La Guajira).
In Bogotá it was reported that in Turbo the service will begin on the 16th of this month and end five days later, while in Riohacha the 26th will begin and close on November 30th.
After Colombia, the hospital vessel will complete its mission in Honduras.
The USNS Comfort has more than a thousand beds, a dozen operating rooms, digital radiology services, a laboratory, a pharmacy, a blood bank with 5,000 units and also a heliport enabled for large aircraft.
It has one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States, as well as four x-ray units, a dental suite, an optometry and lens laboratory, a physiotherapy center, a pharmacy, an invasive angiography suite and two oxygen-producing plants .
Among the health services to be provided in Colombia are general and ophthalmological surgeries, dermatology, general medical evaluation and treatment, preventive medicine, dental examinations and treatments, optometry examinations, eyeglass distribution and public health.
Patients arrive on board mainly in helicopters, and eventually in small boats.
In humanitarian medical missions completed in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2015, the NSNS Comfort, 272 meters long and 32 meters wide, has treated a total of 390,000 patients, with a medical staff from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile , Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru and the United States.