NEWS | March 10, 2010

Team Soto Cano provides 630 people medical care in Belize

By Staff Sgt. Bryan Franks Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

A 23-person team from Joint Task Force-Bravo deployed to Belize March 1-4 to provide medical care to more than 630 people in rural areas of the country.

In partnership with the Belize Ministry of Health and Defense Force team, JTF-Bravo medical crews, based out of Price Barracks near Belize International Airport, airlifted into the villages of St. Margaret's village and Armenia to offer preventive health instruction, general medical care, dental care and medications to the local residents.

"We worked in conjunction with the Ministry of Health to make this mission happen, and we look forward to future partnerships with the Belize people," said Army Capt. (Dr.) Ramon Sumibcay, JTF-Bravo MEDEL. "Our team worked really hard and stayed flexible to make sure everyone who came to get medical care was seen."

More than 230 people were seen by the joint U.S./Belize medical team the first day in St. Margaret's village. The team saw more than 400 additional people the next day in Armenia.

Everyone who came to the field clinic received a preventive health briefing, where they learned basic hygiene, and received vitamins and de-worming medication. They then moved to the screening area to determine the cause of any problems.

"We talked with each family to assess their medical needs," said Air Force Capt. David Bradley, a JTF-Bravo MEDEL nurse. "If their illness is something I can help them with, I do. If it is beyond what I can do, I refer them to a medical provider."

Most people seen had minor medical issues - cold symptoms and upset stomach. Patients with more advanced problems were able to see a medical provider.

"We see mostly upper respiratory illness, allergies and stomachaches," said Captain Sumibcay. "And for those who have issues outside of the scope of care we can provide, we can have them referred to be seen by a specialist at the nearest hospital."

The medical readiness training exercises that JTF-Bravo conduct across Central America not only provide care to people seen but keep JTF-Bravo members ready in case a they are called to support countries in need of disaster relief like Haiti or during the Belize flood of November 2008.

"This was a great but humbling experience," said Air Force Capt. Nathaniel Caldon, JTF-Bravo MEDEL dentist. "I knew I was going out to help the people of Belize but I didn't realize the magnitude of what it meant to the people until I watched some of them stand in line for hours to be seen."