U.S. military medics arrived in San Salvador, El Salvador June 5, 2022, to integrate with the El Salvadoran military and medical staff at Hospital Militar Central for Operation Resolute Sentinel 22.
Resolute Sentinel 22 provides joint training and improved readiness for U.S. civil engineers, medical professionals and support personnel through humanitarian assistance activities in El Salvador.
“Down here in El Salvador we are working with the local military hospital personnel doing knowledge sharing and building partnership with our allies here in Central America,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Sean Griffiths, 959th Emergency Medicine Squadron emergency medicine physician. “They are teaching us what they can about providing medicine in a lower resource environment and us teaching them about advanced procedures and capabilities that they are able to implement down here. ”
The U.S. medics stepped in to help with day-to-day operations at Hospital Militar Central, a medical institution of over 900 staff members, 43 medical departments and serving over 7,500 people.
“We are touching every area of this hospital,” Griffiths said. “My team has been amazing despite the language barrier.”
When they weren’t working with patients, the U.S. and El Salvadoran medics trained with each other. They would share information and experiences or even go through exercises and scenarios with each other that they see regularly.
“We need to increase our level of training and the best way to do that is through our allies like the U.S,” said El Salvador army Maj. Carlos Diaz, Hospital Militar Central head of the medical division. “We recognize the U.S. doctors, medics and nurses have a lot of experiences. We arranged some exchanges in trauma, doing rounds and learning from them and also to see how to use our resources because we need training in trauma and intensive care.”
Some of the training U.S. medics provided was how to better use equipment that they already have to help for trauma cases.
“One of the main things we have been teaching them is ultrasound in the emergency department for trauma and non-traumatic problems they have,” Griffiths said. “They have an ultrasound here but it is not utilized very often and that can be a game changer when seconds matter in terms of a resuscitation for a critically ill patient and getting them familiar with that ultrasound. If we can do that, that would be a big win.”
While training is being improved, there was also a discovery of some basic equipment being lacking as well.
“Two things that I would want down here immediately and in large quantities if I could bring or ask for it would be prehospital tourniquet use and also IV Start kits” Griffiths said. “This hospital relies a lot on sterilization procedures and not on disposable kits. If they had disposable IV kits and tourniquets that would have a major impact here.”
With this new training and equipment, it could hopefully lead to lives being saved in El Salvador.
“This kind of training is like planting a seed,” Diaz said. “We hope our doctors are open to this training. It is good for them. At the end of the day you can ask them and they express that this is the best way to prepare for real scenarios.”
Coming home, the medics from the U.S. were able to witness knowledgeable medical staff perform high quality medical care with limited resources. This can better prepare them for deployed environments when not everything in a hospital is available to you.
“Working with the El Salvadorian staff has been a big game changer for me in a way of how I view going forward in an expeditionary environment,” Griffiths said. “I think sometimes that in that environment when you are in a tent hospital you think that ‘I can’t do certain things because I don’t have the supplies or staff’ but down here it has been proven that you can have a high level of care despite having limited resources.”
With the sharing of information and providing medical care to the people of El Salvador, the U.S. medics have strengthened our partnership with El Salvador.
“I hope that this is the beginning of a partnership,” Diaz said. “I hope in the coming months or next year with what we have learned this week we can do it much better the next time. I hope in the future we have another opportunity to exchange information.”