El Paraiso, Honduras , May 16, 2019 —
Members of Joint Task Force - Bravo’s Medical Element (MEDEL) conducted a training event from May 8 – 12.
The training comprised of a Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) and Medical Civil Action Program (MEDCAP) provided medical care for more than 1,300 Honduran citizens in the eastern region.
“MEDRETE is where we bring our providers, our medics, and our pharmacists to remote communities and provide them basic medical care and coordinate with the Ministry of Health bringing the necessary medical services to the underserved and poor areas within Honduras,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Sang Nguyen, MEDEL officer in charge of the mission. “We are here to foster our partner-nation’s alliance, and maintain our readiness to respond with humanitarian or disaster relief.”
The main goal of the mission was to provide the medical staff training in their areas of expertise, and to maintain deploy-ability at a moment’s notice.
“You can recall Hurricane Maria or other disasters that happened within Central America where we have provided support,” said Nguyen. “With these types of missions we prepare our medical personnel to hone their craft and also enhance their capability to respond to any disaster.”
Professionals from preventive medicine including nurses and medics, doctors, laboratory technicians, pharmacologists and dentists, all provided medical services to the cities of Argelia and Santa Maria of the El Paraiso district during the MEDRETE portion of training.
“My part was after they were screened by the medics and the nurses. We saw them for any medical conditions that needed a little bit more attention,” said U.S. Army Capt. Sayda Fairfield, MEDEL physician assistant. “We would interview them and find out what their main concern was, if they were taking any medication, if they had any allergies. We would set up a treatment plan for them and provide medications as long as we had them there. If we didn’t have the medications, we were able to work with the Honduran providers and they would write a script to the pharmacy and would follow up if they needed a referral to the hospital,” she explained.
The Honduran military and Ministry of Health also provided assistance to help facilitate the operations.
“We worked with the Honduran military and they basically helped us set up the majority of the event as far as security, helped with the flow of people going from the different sections from preventative medicine to the pharmacy, labs and the screeners,” She continued. “The providers themselves were integrated with our providers. If I had any questions, be it something cultural or something that I didn’t understand in Spanish, I could have them elaborate a little bit more. Also, there was that contact with them if these patients needed any more follow-up care they would help out with the transition.”
Retired Honduran Army Sgt. Maj. Luis Aleman, who works as a paramedic in the region, worked with MEDEL’s preventive medicine section to brief patients on the importance of self-care.
“Today has been full of people that needed care and everyone has been pretty grateful for the services and briefings they received,” Aleman said. “They listened to good information about hygiene and the importance of it to eradicate bacteria.”
While accomplishing their training goals, members of JTF – Bravo also worked to develop and strengthen partnerships in the region.
“The medical readiness exercise and civil action program synchronizes with our main objectives and also builds relationships with our host nation,” said Nguyen. “I would say the best part was the medical civil action program, where we integrated our personnel, our equipment and worked along with our counterparts.”
The MEDCAP took place in Las Dificultades, a remote village named after the difficult roads that have to be traveled to get to the location. While the MEDRETE focused on U.S. service members providing care to the communities, the MEDCAP centered on the Honduran military taking care of the community with assistance and advisement from U.S. personnel.
“One of the places that we went hadn’t had a doctor or a provider there for two years. So they were just so thankful that someone was paying attention to them and meeting their needs,” Fairfield said. “Some of them came from very far away and told me that they walked several hours just to get the basic medications that we take for granted like Tylenol and Ibuprofen. So a lot of them, at the end, gave us hugs and told us that they were very happy that we were there and were able to support them with what they needed.”
Aleman agrees that the integration of the medical fields from both countries was a wonderful experience and led to a successful event.
“It’s an honor and I am grateful to work together to accomplish the mission,” Aleman said. “I hope we can continue these missions, share information with one another, and help build up one another.”
After seeing more than 1,300 patients, the unit agreed it was a successful mission.
“It was definitely successful,” Fairfield said. “Percentage-wise, it was about a third of the population that lived within that village or community. So, all in all, when you see a third of the population that’s there, I would say it makes it very successful. I really felt the sense that we were helping.”