U.S. military docs treat nearly 3,000 people in storm ravaged El Salvador
December 9, 2009
ILOPANGO, El Salvador -- The Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element performed a Medical Civil Action Program, or MEDCAP, from Nov. 19 to 23 treating 2,987 people in several different cities affected by the El Salvador mudslides.
A team of 10 personnel along with the El Salvador's Ministry of Health personnel and local physicians conducted the MEDCAP for the benefit of Salvadorans in the cities of Guadalupe, San Diego, San Emigdio and Las Isletas - the cities that were most affected by the flooding that began Nov. 8.
"This MEDCAP was a total success," said Dr. Guillermo Saenz, JTF-Bravo medical element liaison officer. "I think we exceeded everyone's expectations on such a short-notice medical assistance of this size."
On the final day of the program, the team saw an astounding 1,118 patients, and they couldn't have done something like that without a good team effort, Saenz said.
"Our interagency cooperation between host nation, Ministry of Health and the U.S. agencies has been simply amazing," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Coombs, a pharmacy technician.
The first stage of medical care provided during the MEDCAP was health and hygiene education where all 2,987 people learned proper hand-washing techniques and received multi-vitamins.
Each of the locations had areas where people with flu-like symptom could be separated and screened for H1N1 and given information on preventing the spread of viruses and disease.
The Ministry of Health also provided vaccinations for about 60 children at the different locations.
The personnel also distributed more than $23,000 in medical supplies during the event. The medicines ranged from prescription medicine to common pain-killers.
"Providing antibiotics is probably some of the most important prescriptions we have done during this MEDCAP," said Capt. Manuel Silveira, a pharmacist on the team. "Due to the remoteness of some of the villages, the medications' cost and the conditions some of these people have been living in after the flooding fighting off infection becomes a difficult task, but bringing in the medicines we have and catching some of these conditions early will give them a chance at getting better."
The dental hygienists provided 416 dental screenings and performed some minor procedures. Children were also given a preventative dentistry instruction to teach them proper brushing techniques and how to care for their teeth.
Another important aspect of the MEDCAP was the psychologists provided by the Ministry of Health who performed 161 post-traumatic stress disorder screenings.
"Post-traumatic stress disorder after a disaster such as this can cause sleep and depression problems," said Dr. Miguel Coello, a liaison officer. "And the Ministry of Health saw this as a golden opportunity to treat people for PTSD and help them start coping early with what they experienced."
The preventative medicine personnel providing initial screening tried very hard to stress the importance of talking about PTSD because if people can't learn how to cope with these problems it could become worse, Colleo said.
The psychologists had the children draw pictures of what they remembered about the flooding and mudslides, he said. From the pictures they would determine whether they felt the children would need treatment in order to help them cope with what they experienced.
JTF-Bravo is scheduled to return to El Salvador to conduct another MEDCAP Dec. 14 and 15.