The Red Cross is calling for retirees, dependents or any other military I.D. cardholder with healthcare skills to volunteer for the first Emergency Health Care Provider Registry in the Pacific, a Camp Foster Red Cross official said Friday.

The Red Cross is building a database to provide U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa with a potential certified volunteer medical workforce that the hospital could call on during a large-scale natural disaster, said Red Cross Station chairman Wanda E. Marrero.

Hospital spokesman Brian J. Davis said Thursday at Camp Lester that events such as Hurricane Katrina in the United States and mudslides in the Philippines worried hospital staff members on how they would handle a similar disaster here.

In such a situation the staff would be overwhelmed, Davis said. And other military medical personnel, such as corpsmen, would be just as busy within their own units, he said.

“These are situations that go on for months,” he said. And “… our doctors, nurses and technicians have their own families that they would need to take care, and they can’t work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They would need help.”

However, medical volunteers cannot just be put to work, he said.

“The hospital can’t allow a person to touch one of our patients until we verify their medical credentials,” Davis said.

In a big emergency, there wouldn’t be time or personnel for the time-consuming process of verifying medical training, he said.

This is where the Red Cross stepped in with the registry.

“We asked the hospital what we could do for them and this is what they asked for,” Marrero said.

The registry process verifies a volunteer’s medical certification, she said. Once registered, the volunteer could be called upon immediately for help during an emergency.

The station is looking for retired doctors, corpsmen, those with emergency medical training, counselors, physician’s assistants, lab technicians, nurses or any other healthcare provider who would want to help in an emergency.

Camp Foster’s station is working out the system and other regional Red Cross stations will take their cue from there, Marrero said.

The Red Cross and the hospital plan to train the medical volunteers who register and can even help them keep their medical certificates up to date, she said.

Once registered — a process that should take about two weeks and includes a physical — people can volunteer as little or as much time as they want, she said.

“But the strength of this program depends on the strength of the volunteers,” she said.

Volunteers can contact any Red Cross station or call the main station at 645-3800.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now