THE LARGE number of people who travelled from all over the country to take advantage of the services of the visiting hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) is testimony to the high demand for healthcare in this country as well as the importance of maintaining good bilateral relations with our international allies.
US Navy personnel had promised to see 300 to 350 patients per day in Cedros. In the end, they attended to about 400 patients daily, some whom came from as far as Tobago, arriving in large groups before the crack of dawn.
These numbers are not surprising given the chronic health of our population. Among the main health problems encountered by medical staff were congestive heart failure, diabetes, blood pressure, and skin issues. Many other patients travelled to access ordinary services that you might expect to be efficiently handled in a society that provides healthcare for all.
Which is what is telling about this venture. The rush reflected not only the fact that the clinics were free but also the perception among the population that they would be in better hands. The aptly named Comfort has filled a confidence gap. It has also placed a spotlight on the problems encountered by ordinary citizens at our healthcare facilities: poor service, long delays, drug shortages.
Recent polls have shown increasing anxiety about the state of the healthcare system. The State, while it must be grateful for this intervention, should take note of what it says about our own progress when it comes to healthcare reform.
It should also be observed that while the Comfort has a primary mission of assisting countries affected by the Venezuelan refugee crisis that received Venezuelan refugees who fled, that has not stopped it from treating any in need.
“We do not care where people come from,” said one official.
Similar generosity is being seen in the Bahamas where this country has joined the international forces sending troops there. The pictures of destruction and mayhem that continue to come out of that country are unbelievable. And while the storm has passed, the suffering being endured by its population is unlikely to abate soon.
As bodies continue to be unearthed from the wreckage, there is need for continued support and collaboration from international bodies. We wish the members of our relief force, which consists of members of the regiment, coast guard and air guard, as well as medical personnel, engineers and regular soldiers, best of luck in their mission.
The fact that so many countries of the region and the world have mobilised to send in support is a hopeful and comforting sign. It brings home the message that international solidarity is still possible even in these distressing, divisive times.