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US brings ‘Comfort’ to Jamaica

Published:Tuesday | May 5, 2015 | 5:00 AMAnastasia Cunningham
Master Sergeant John Cuoco
Jamaican born Corporal Philip Henry
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The United States naval ship, Comfort - a Mercy-class hospital ship - arrived in Kingston early yesterday, a day ahead of its scheduled humanitarian mission to Jamaica.

Thousands of Jamaicans are expected to benefit from free medical, engineering and veterinary services during the May 6-14 exercise, where more than 100 medical personnel, as well as several engineers and other crew members, will carry out humanitarian work at several hospitals, health centres and schools.

"The ship's main purpose here is to carry out surgeries and medical procedures for those persons in need, as well as engineering work on several schools that are badly in need of repair. We also have some veterinary engagements as well," Master Sergeant John Cuoco told The Gleaner yesterday.

Cuoco, along with Corporal Philip Henry, a Jamaican - both members of the US Marines Corps with the fourth civil affairs group based in Hialeah, Florida - have been in Jamaica for the past week conducting advanced logistics, coordination and preparation, ahead of the humanitarian ship's arrival.

Comfort's visit to Jamaica is part of 'Continuing Promise 2015' - a six-month humanitarian mission in the Caribbean. Jamaica is the third port of call on this exercise, first docking in Belize and then Guatemala.

"This is a way of maintaining our partnership with countries throughout the Caribbean and Central America. Jamaica is critical to the United States interests. We have had a longstanding relationship with Jamaica, and President (Barack) Obama's recent visit to Jamaica is to reinforce that relationship and partnership. So it is important for our neighbours to understand that the United States is there to stand by them, ready to come in at any time with needed supplies, equipment or personnel in the event of emergencies or any kind of natural disasters," said Cuoco, on his first visit to the island.

 

1,000 PERSONS PER DAY

 

During Comfort's visit, a number of medical procedures will be carried out at the main medical outreach site at the National Arena in St Andrew, as well as at the Maxfield Park Health Centre, Bustamante Hospital for Children and the Kingston Public Hospital.

Beginning at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the Arena, the team will offer medical services and supplies to 600 persons on the first day of the mission, after which, they are expecting to see approximately 1,000 persons per day.

Patients determined to be in need of major medical procedures will be transported to the Comfort for surgery.

"The number of surgeries to be done will depend on the types needed, but I do know we can do up to 200 surgeries in the time we are here," Cuoco stated.

For the engineering part of the mission, four schools have been selected - Carberry Court Special School, Rennock Lodge All-Age School, Trench Town Primary and Hope Valley Experimental School - all in St Andrew.

The team will be carrying out work such as construction of chicken coop; overhauling underground water drainage system and septic tank; removing and replacing PVC plumbing; remodelling library; and installing playground equipment; lighting and electrical outlets and roof-covered walkway. They will also build handicap ramp; seal walls to prevent entry of rodents; replace metal doors/entry to classrooms; repair classroom ceiling, repaint; and do termination and eradication.

At the Bodles Agricultural Research Station in St Catherine, the crew will conduct a number of veterinarian services. Additionally, they will participate in several community outreach activities.

"We will also be doing some subject matter expert exchanges, in that Jamaican and American medical personnel will go over procedures and practices and exchange ideas on how they handle different cases," Henry noted.

After leaving Jamaica on May 14, Comfort's Continuing Promise mission will move to countries including in Panama, Honduras and El Salvador, ending in September.

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com