THE medical voluntary mission of the United States Naval Ship (USNS), Comfort, commenced in Saint Lucia on Wednesday 25th September 2019. The official opening of the Humanitarian mission of the USNS Comfort was marked with a ceremony at the walk-in clinic at the OKEU Hospital. In attendance were Richmond Felix, Deputy Director of Information and Communication of the Department of External Affairs; Felix St Hill, Permanent Secretary in the Department of Health and Wellness; U.S Navy Captain, Brian Diebold; crew from the USNS; representatives of the Ministry of Health and members of the press.
After extending an official welcome to the USNS Comfort, St Hill said, “This humanitarian mission will certainly be beneficial to a large number of Saint Lucian citizens who will of course take the opportunity to avail themselves of the healthcare services which will be offered on this mission.” The number of people who did in fact turn up at OKEU for the mission on that day was an attestation to the words of St Hill. The media and representatives from the Ministry of Health were given a detailed tour of the clinic. Saint Lucians had shown up for paediatric care, dental procedures, optometry, pharmaceutical care and other medical aid. There were two walk-in clinics in operation on that day. The second was situated at the National Cultural Centre in Barnard Hill, Castries.
St Hill said that the humanitarian mission will go a long way in directly improving the delivery of healthcare for Saint Lucians. “Of course, we will all wish that this floating hospital along with the tremendous expertise which has come to visit our shores was a permanent gift to our people, but as it is not, let us ensure we can maximise its use while it remains in our waters,” St Hill remarked. He declared that the number of people who will be attended to during the mission will surpass the capacity of persons that the national infrastructure can handle in double the time. St Hill expressed gratitude for the positive level of impact which he said the mission will have on the various communities. He reported that the number of patients who visited the two clinics on the first day of the mission was in excess of one thousand. St Hill said that the problem of meeting healthcare needs was always more difficult for smaller countries and weaker economies such as Saint Lucia, which meant that additional assistance in regards to healthcare will always be welcome.
This humanitarian mission was a collaborative effort between the Government of Saint Lucia and the United States of America. At the official opening of the mission, the U.S Navy Captain remarked, “We look forward to continuing to build and strengthen this partnership, and we look forward to meeting and caring for thousands of Saint Lucians.”