Over 5,000 patients seen as Comfort’s visit ends

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 06:00

Doctors perform a Gallstones surgery on a patient on the USNS Comfort at Port Brighton in La Brea, yesterday.

PHOTO: Rishi Ragoonath


When the USNS Com­fort rais­es its an­chor and sails out of the Gulf of Paria, crew mem­bers leave know­ing that they’ve changed the lives of over 5,000 peo­ple through a week-long med­ical in­ter­ven­tion.

It’s an ac­com­plish­ment even the Prime Min­is­ter praised, al­though he said it was not an “in­dict­ment” on this coun­try’s health care sys­tem.


The Com­fort’s ini­tial plan was to per­form 100 surg­eries aboard its hos­pi­tal ship, but Cap­tain Bri­an Diebold said that at the end of Mon­day, 115 ail­ing per­sons had pro­ce­dures done.

Among them were im­pov­er­ished Venezue­lan mi­grants and 10 sick chil­dren, the youngest be­ing 18 months old. They un­der­went surg­eries to cor­rect or­thopaedic in­juries, in­fect­ed gall blad­ders, clef palates and cataracts.

Speak­ing to re­porters at the clos­ing cer­e­mo­ny of the Com­fort’s vis­it to T&T at the Port of Brighton in La Brea yes­ter­day, Cap­tain Diebold said the med­ical staff ex­ceed­ed its quo­ta based on the need for surg­eries.

“As of to­day, we’ve seen over 5000 peo­ple and con­duct­ed over 115 surg­eries aboard the ship. That does not in­clude the ad­di­tion­al med­ical sites that were put to­geth­er by the Min­istry of Health and the lo­cal gov­ern­ments through­out Trinidad,” Diebold said.

Those fig­ures were ex­pect­ed to in­crease yes­ter­day as pa­tients con­tin­ued to un­der­go surgery aboard the ship. Many al­so vis­it­ed the last of the clin­ics at the South-West Re­gion­al In­door Sports Are­na in Point Fortin and the Ce­dros Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­tre. To­day, med­ical equip­ment is ex­pect­ed to be dis­as­sem­bled ahead of to­mor­row’s de­par­ture for Grena­da.

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley was im­pressed dur­ing a tour of the Com­fort along with Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young yes­ter­day.

“It is more than we ex­pect­ed. The float­ing hos­pi­tal Com­fort is a mar­vel of med­ical ser­vices. I toured the ship this morn­ing and it is, in fact, a re­al hos­pi­tal. I think that we were lucky to be in­clud­ed in the pro­gramme. Five thou­sand peo­ple were able, in a few days, to ac­cess the best med­ical care avail­able, I will say any­where in the world be­cause the ship is out­fit­ted with vir­tu­al­ly any­thing and every­thing you can want in a hos­pi­tal. So we were very grate­ful to be giv­en the op­por­tu­ni­ty, we grasped it with both hands and the staff has been very won­der­ful,” Row­ley said.

He said the Com­fort’s vis­it helped ease the bur­den on the pub­lic health sys­tem for the past week. And while many of those who ac­cessed the Com­fort’s ser­vice claimed that it was bet­ter, Row­ley said that T&T has a very good health ser­vice.


“Hav­ing ad­di­tion­al in­put like this is no in­di­ca­tion of fail­ure, it is an in­di­ca­tion of ad­di­tion­al sup­port and ad­di­tion­al ser­vice.”