Colombian, Canadian and American military medical and dental professionals treated more than 2,200 Haitian patients during a New Horizons medical and dental training exercise June 14 at Hospital Saint Pierre de Grande Desdunes, near La Hatte, Haiti.
Task Force Bon Voizen, New Horizons Haiti 2011, a U.S. Southern Command sponsored, U.S. Army South conducted, combined humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard, provides an opportunity for real-world training while providing humanitarian assistance at the request of the government of Haiti.
As part of Task Force Bon Voizen, this group of 48 professionals melded together to create a team dynamic to not only meet their mission of conducting humanitarian relief missions and medical training exercises June 11-25, but to exceed expectations in care and services provided. June 13, day one of the 10-day medical readiness training exercise, set the tone for doing just that.
“We were able to treat 1,049 patients,” said 2nd Lt. Matthew Wright, the officer in charge of this exercise from the 369th Minimal Care Detachment in Sharonville, Ohio. “That number exceeded all Day 1 totals for 2011 Haiti MEDRETEs.”
As the fourth of four MEDRETES for this region, the momentum continued as day-two totals ended at 1,158 Haitian patients receiving medical and/or dental care. Proactive measures taken by the Government of Haiti’s Ministry of Health was a significant contributing factor for the volume of patients seen.
“The government of Haiti has been very accommodating with space and other requests,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mary Huffman, noncommissioned officer in charge of the exercise from the Ohio Army Reserve 369th MCD. “We were able to expand beyond the original rooms allocated and provide more areas for treatment and a dedicated obstetrician/women’s clinic with a sonogram.”
The ability to employ more of the medical and dental professionals than planned added to the efficient streaming of patients. The vetting process also helped improve the flow of incoming patients from staging, to preventative-measures classes, to triage and ultimately to appropriate medical services.
The commitment to care from the nine Colombians, five Canadians and 34 Americans seemed to energize their efforts as team members rolled up their sleeves and bore the 99 degree Fahrenheit heat and 60 percent humidity. The team members’ 10-hour day on site continued once they returned to task force headquarters as they prepared for the next day’s patients.
For some the compassion runs deeper than a commitment to service.
“Being here for this MEDRETE is the first time I have been back in Haiti since my family left,” said Canadian Capt. Whitney Dagrain, a dentist who has seen more than 50 patients in the two days since this exercise began. “My parents left when I was 16, and coming back, for part of me, is like coming home. I am glad I am able to be here and help.”
In addition to medical training exercises, Task Force Bon Voizen has deployed military engineers to build a technical school, two medical clinics and a latrine facility. These projects are also nearing completion as New Horizons 2011, which also includes projects and MEDRETEs in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Suriname, draws to a close.
Task Force Bon Voizen is a Commander, U.S. Southern Command sponsored, U.S. Army South conducted, joint foreign military interaction/humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard. Task Force Bon Voizen is deploying U.S. military engineers and medical professionals to Haiti for training and to provide humanitarian services. Task Force Bon Voizen will build a school, two medical clinics and a latrine facility, as well as staff three medical clinics and one dental clinic between April 28 and June 25 in the Artibonite Department.