Camp Lester hospital team doing its part in relief mission
January 8, 2005
CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — Seventeen servicemembers from the U.S. Naval Hospital here are helping support the humanitarian missions in Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
Several of them even canceled leave to rush to the aid of victims of the Christmas weekend earthquake and tsunamis in South Asia.
The team augmented the Marines’ 3rd Medical Battalion, said Amanda M. Woodhead, the hospital’s spokeswoman.
“The team consisted of two general surgeons, anesthesiologists, perioperative nurses, and independent duty corpsmen; three family medicine physicians; five medical surgical nurses; and one physician assistant,” Woodhead said Thursday. “Also, six field medical technicians (hospital corpsmen) have been placed on standby to assist with force health protection if needed.”
In addition to the personnel, the hospital sent 18 pallets of medical supplies — including medications, immunizations and other equipment — worth about $156,000, she said.
Meanwhile, the hospital ship USNS Mercy sailed from San Diego on Wednesday for the Indian Ocean, where it will provide up to 1,000 patient beds for the disaster victims, according to the Military Sealift Command.
The ship, which will take about a month to reach the area, has supplies and equipment to treat a wide variety of patients, from young children to the elderly, according to an MSC press release. About 275 medical and support personnel sailed with the Mercy to prepare for the humanitarian mission while the ship is transiting to the area.
On Okinawa, the hospital was notified Dec. 30 that the team would deploy over New Year’s weekend, Woodhead said. The hospital quickly rounded up 18 primary care providers to process the 17 medical personnel for deployment at the Evans Branch Clinic on Camp Foster.
There, they provided readiness immunizations and medical clearance for the hospital staff and more than 600 Marines and sailors who were being deployed, Woodhead said.
“We received approval to release 17 medical assets at midnight the 31st and then worked over the next 48 hours to clear them for the operation,” said Navy Cmdr. Thomas J. Petrilak, director for hospital administration.
Four of the medical personnel deployed had plans to be on leave during this time and traded in their travel tickets for temporary duty orders, Woodhead said.
“One of them, Navy Lt. John B. Gore, a perioperative nurse in the main operating room, was already packed for a three-week vacation with his family in Mississippi and was scheduled to leave on January 3,” she said.
Despite the significant number of personnel deployed, business will carry on as usual at the hospital, according to Navy Capt. Susan L. Chittum, director of Surgical Services.
“While there may be brief delays in elective or voluntary surgeries, no other change in service or availability is expected,” she stated in a hospital press release.