NEWS | July 28, 2008

Soto Cano Troops provide free medical services, products to Honduran village

By Staff Sgt. Joel Mease Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs

More than 740 people from the village of San Antonio De Canada, Honduras, came to a medical readiness training exercise put on by the Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element July 25.

The exercise was designed to provide U.S. service members with real-world training in austere locations as well as provide a population of people free medical care from U.S. and Honduran medical professionals, said Master Sgt. Laurie Walters, JTF-Bravo NCO in charge of MEDEL.

During the visit the patients received medical care ranging from medical screenings, provider visits, medications, dental services and cervical cancer screenings. The lines extended by more than 100 people at times with waits of up to three hours or more to be seen by a U.S. or Honduran medical provider.

While the MEDRETE attracts several hundred people to see medical professionals, the goal for medical officials is to provide preventative medicine for those who attended, said Dr. Wilmer Amador, a liaison officer for MEDEL.

"When we do these MEDRETE there is obviously a large lure to the local population to see a doctor," Dr. Amador said. "Unfortunately, the amount of medical services we can provide is limited because we don't have labs or ultrasounds at our disposal, so promoting preventative medicine becomes the key."

One of the preventative medicine items that can prove to be extremely effective is screening for cervical cancer.

"We are fortunate to have two technicians from the Emma Romero de Callejas Cancer Center in Tegucigalpa come with us," Dr. Amador said. "The earlier we are able to detect cervical cancer the better. If it's too far along we are limited in what we can do for that person."

Other preventative health measures they were able to stress were the importance of clean water and personal hygiene.

"When we are in the rainy season, one of the biggest problems we can have is a rise in dengue fever, so we try to stress preventative measures. That's where we get the most bang for the buck," said Dr. Miguel Caello, a liaison officer for MEDEL.

For those in the village, having medical care come directly to them is a unique experience as being seen by a medical professional will not come often in their lives, said Dr. Caello.

"One of the biggest challenges for them is access to medical care," Dr. Caello said. "After spending time talking with them, I found that it can take maybe six to eight hours to travel to a hospital here because of the roads."

The location was chosen from a list provided by the Honduran Minister of Health Office that detailed the most remote areas. Santa Barbara District was a location JTF-Bravo has wanted to visit for the last four years, but for operational or other reasons couldn't, Master Sgt. Walters said.