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Rare calm in Haiti as thousands seek free medical care from US Navy hospital ship

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

Faller, who arrived in the country Thursday as part of a three-country Caribbean tour and later met with President Jovenel Moise, called the outreach in Haiti "very powerful."

"It shows the power of an outstretched hand, the power of what we can do when we work together," he said. "Here in Haiti we've had the opportunity to see first hand the impact that it has made, changing lives forever."

During their time out to sea, the ship's crew, which includes medical professionals from other countries in the region, has treated more than 64,000 patients. That number will surely rise, with the crew expecting to see anywhere between 300 and 500 patients a day at the shore-based medical site in Haiti. Ship surgeons can conduct as many as 20 operations a day. On Thursday, the crew treated 599 patients. They also performed 15 surgeries. So far, a total of 1,380 Haitians have received free medical care.

And while some surgeries were prescreened prior to the visit, patients arriving at the medical site were also being flagged and screened to have surgery if they need it, said Comfort spokeswoman Lt. Mary Smith.

"We set out to treat people, make a difference, change lives," Faller said. "Some of the communities the ship has gone, the volume of patients the ship was able to see in a few days equal two to three months of flows through the local health care system."

While life timidly appeared to return to the capital Thursday, tensions still remain with barricades erected in some parts of Port-au-Prince and other cities around the country. Ahead of Faller's arrival from nearby Jamaica, several passengers in a mini-bus traveling near the presidential palace on the Champ-de-Mars were severely burned after the-bus was attacked and set on fire after a group of armed men demanded payment for passage, bus owner Johnny Pierre told Radio Caraibes. Police arrested three individuals in connection with the incident.

 

Sempre, the woman suffering from allergic reactions, said she is grateful, both for the Comfort and the tentative calm that has returned to parts of metropolitan Port-au-Prince. But she has no doubt the country's problems will remain after the ship leaves.

"The schools are destroyed, there is no school, no activities," she said. "There is no money. Everything is expensive. Poor people can't even eat."

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