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Jan 30, 2007

U.S. Army brings extra medical care to Toledo villages

Story PictureThe U.S. military may be bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it has not abdicated its humanitarian role in the rest of the world as Janelle Chanona found out yesterday in the Toledo District.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
For the next two weeks, hundreds of men, women, children, and even pets will gather in San Antonio Village to receive medical treatment from the U.S. Army Reserve.

Approximately forty medical personnel from the 396 Combat Support Hospital in Vancouver, Washington arrived in the Toledo district over the weekend to dispense vitamins, pressure pills and everything in between, to villagers from San Antonio, Santa Ana, and Santa Theresa.

Using classrooms from the San Antonio Government School as examination units, the doctors have endeavoured to treat five hundred patients every day.

Major Gregory Koepke, U.S. Army Reserve
“We brought twenty-two tri-walls boxes about this tall, square with medical supplies. We brought twenty-five hundred pairs of glasses with us of varying prescription strengths, we have a dentist, we have an optometrist, we have five doctors, five nurses, five paramedics.”

According to Major Gregory Koepke, during this exercise the army will also be providing veterinary services.

Major Gregory Koepke
“We can arrange to come and worm animals, worm cattle, horses, goats, we can perform castrations, we can take care of any acute problems: chickens, sheep, hogs, both internal and external parasites for animals. We have a veterinarian who lives up in Montana, who is a Major as well, and he is with the BAHA director right now running around. They’ve got cattle lined up for today. They are working a lot of cattle.”

Janelle Chanona
“So you guys are a one stop medical shop…”

Major Gregory Koepke
“We are a one-stop, catch all.”

The Medical Readiness Training Exercise is the first of three such events that will take place in Belize this year. During their stays, the U.S. personnel will receive technical and logistical support from the Belize Defence Force, who will also deal with translations and securing the clinic site.

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett, Commander, Belize Defence Force
“It’s very important that the villagers see members of the B.D.F. coming back into the community. It’s also important that if they stay healthy, we can continue to recruit from this district. I think it’s a win-win situation as I said. The U.S. Armed Forces get to do their annual training and the community gets to benefit from their expertise.”

“We have a DENTRETE that will happen in the Orange Walk town area, but primarily aimed at high school students, preventive coating of teeth and also filling of cavities. And then we have another MEDRETE like this, which will be in the Belize district, same thing delivering service to the community.”

Normally, such medical care is fourteen miles away in Punta Gorda town. According to Medical Chief of Staff at the P.G. Hospital, Dr. Bhupathi Raju, that situation will change as the National Health Insurance programme is rolled out in the south. A main health centre will be established in San Antonio and aided by satellite clinics in the villages.

Bhupathi Raju, Medical Chief of Staff, P.G. Hospital
“Nowadays, the lifestyle changes are causing—we are getting more hypertensive, diabetic patients in the Indian population which we don’t have before.”

“Now, a lot of people getting educated, they know the importance of health. The problems of the past that we used to face we are not facing that much nowadays. People are demanding quality health care, which government is trying to put in place, they are trying. We hope in the future, people will feel more better with the service we are giving than in the past.”

The medical exercise will end on February seventh. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

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