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News | Aug. 22, 2014

Over 1,400 Hondurans receive medical care from U.S. Army medics

By Capt. Steven Stubbs Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Joint Task Force-Bravo's Medical Element (MEDEL), with support from JTF-Bravo Joint Security Forces and Army Forces Battalion, partnered with the Honduran Ministry of Health and the Honduran military to provide medical care to more than 1,400 people and performed 11 surgeries over three days in the Department of Santa Barbara, Honduras during a Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) and Mobile Surgical Team (MST), Aug. 11-15, 2014.

The expeditionary MEDRETE team convoyed to the communities of San Juan del Sitio and Correderos while the MST group convoyed to the Santa Barbara Hospital to perform the surgeries.

"The communities of San Juan del Sitio and Correderos are greatly underserved medically," said U.S. Army Maj. Daniel Gardner, mission commander and pharmacist with MEDEL. "Some residents received timely and effective treatment for acute conditions that potentially could have produced long term problems. Examples include antibiotics for acute infections, respiratory treatments, and dental extractions."

The JTF-Bravo team, the Honduran Ministry of Health, and the Honduran military worked together to provide important preventative medical information, anti-parasitic treatment, much needed dental services, and a range of primary care services, including treating and controlling a head lice outbreak in San Juan del Sitio, resulting in improved overall health for the communities.

An unusual case presented to the MEDRETE team required the removal of a bullet located in a man's chest that has been there for two years.

"One gentleman required surgical extraction of a bullet located superficially in his chest," stated Gardner. "The bullet was left over from an incident in 2012 and had worked its way up just under the skin. The procedure was straightforward and performed under field conditions by a physician assistant and medic."

U.S. Army and Honduran surgeons performed open cholecystectomy, hernia and appendectomy surgeries to include an emergency appendectomy. The operations provided to the underserviced and impoverished community didn't cost them anything while the surgical team also helped shrink the surgery waiting list, provided materials necessary to perform some procedures and helped local medical professionals repair medical facilities and equipment.

"These surgeries were provided to the patients at no cost which helped those that did not have the money to pay," said U.S. Army Maj. Karen Santiago, MST mission commander and MEDEL chief nurse. "The Santa Barbara Hospital had a 50 patient backlog that was reduced to 39 and they could not perform the hernia surgeries because they didn't have any MESH so we provided it."

Both medical teams commended the Honduran Ministry of Health and military personnel for a job well done even in the toughest of times.

"I was impressed by the high quality performance and professionalism of Joint Task Force-Bravo, Honduran Ministry of Health, and military personnel," added Gardner. "But I was also awed by the profound lack of healthcare resources available in these remote communities, and the ability of the Ministry of Health personnel to stretch those limited resources."

Joint Task Force-Bravo has been conducting medical readiness training exercises since Oct. 1993. They have treated more than 349,000 medical patients, 69,000 dental patients and 14,400 surgical patients throughout Central America.