PROVIDENCIA, Colombia –
U.S. military service members and civilian providers with Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-B), a U.S. Southern Command unit based out of Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, in coordination with the Colombian Ministry of Health, military, government, and non-government organizations, conducted a Global Health Engagement July 14-16.
Approximately 25 service members, including two civilian doctors, deployed to Colombia and conducted a medical readiness training exercise (MEDRETE) to provide expeditionary healthcare services to the island communities of Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands.
The rural islands were devastated after Hurricane Iota, a Category 4 storm, decimated 90 percent of the infrastructure in November 2020, including the local hospital.
“The Providencia Island MEDRETE is one example of JTF-B’s efforts to continuously improve our ability to be ready to face tomorrow’s challenges together with our partners,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Derrick Williams, medical provider with the Medical Element, JTF-B. “The opportunity to serve a community in need, in collaboration with the host nation's military and partners, ensures we are stronger and more prepared to face future challenges.”
Healthcare services included preventive medicine, primary care, pediatrics, dental, ophthalmology, gynecology, dermatology and pharmacy at a temporary field hospital.
At the conclusion of the medical engagement, JTF-B medical personnel treated more than 700 patients from Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands.
During the ceremony, needed hospital equipment including dental chairs, dental kits, scales, an automated external defibrillator and sterilization equipment were donated through USSOUTHCOM’s Humanitarian Assistance Program. The hospital has been without this equipment since Hurricane Iota, and will increase services provided and the quality of patient care.
“Engagements like this reflect our enduring promise to be a trusted partner, to help our neighbors and to work together for a free, prosperous and secure hemisphere,” said Williams. “We are grateful for the opportunity to make an impact.”
The U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Philip S. Goldberg, Colombian Minister of National Defense Diego Molano Aponte, Colombian Minister of Health Alejandro Gaviria Uribe and several key leaders from the Colombian military also attended the closing ceremony.
“It’s important for us, because we need to work together,” said Colombian Lt. Col. Juan David Vivas, the officer-in-charge of social work for the Colombian Air Force. “To experience natural disaster, like after the hurricane, [ensures] we can gather together to rebuild.”