PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (NNS) -- Five Haitians and one American travelled to North Carolina for advanced medical treatment Feb. 2 as a result of a joint U.S. military effort.
The patients were evacuated from Port-au-Prince after being released from the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) due to their injuries exceeding the capabilities of medical resources available in Haiti.
Lt. Cmdr. Eric Sherck, medical liaison officer aboard Comfort, regularly helps to coordinate transportation of patients like those sent to North Carolina who require advanced medical care.
"It's a daily process we constantly re-evaluate and it seems to be working," Sherck said. "The patients we are sending may require some length of care, but the cases we are picking are individuals that will be able to return to Haiti as fully functioning individuals in their society."
Before any decision is made to convey Haitians to the United States, doctors aboard Comfort review each case and determine the best location for treatment. If possible, medical treatment is provided on board Comfort. If not, there are a number of medical care centers waiting to lend a helping hand.
"Medical facilities in the U.S. are volunteering services after seeing patients on the news," Sherck said.
The amount of people who require care is massive and Haiti needs additional help, said Air Force Lt. Col. Christle Shavers, chief of patient movement team at the Port-au-Prince airport. She added that the U.S. military is here to help facilitate the process of healing.
With the numbers of patients requiring advanced care, facilitating them remains a task requiring a great deal of detailed planning and concentration.
"[Recently] we did not have patient movement for two days because we were trying to find different locations to receive the patients," Shavers said. "The commitment the United States has provided has not changed; they are looking into more resources so we can care for these patients."
The most predominant injuries resulting from the earthquake and requiring care are complex orthopedic cases related to people being trapped in rubble. In addition, spinal fracture, burn and pediatric patients often require extensive follow-up treatment to complete the care process.
"We are giving the same level of care that we are providing to our Soldiers and Sailors when they are in a combat zone," said Navy Lt. Eric Hardy, a staff nurse on board Comfort.
The United States and more than 30 multinational partners have banded together in Operation Unified Response to provide disaster relief to Haiti. Current estimates by Haitian officials indicate that more than 200,000 Haitians died in the 7.0 earthquake that struck Jan. 12, and another 300,000 were left injured in the wake of the devastation. In addition to medical care already provided by various agencies within the Caribbean nation, more than 2,000,000 water bottles and daily food rations have been provided to help ease the suffering of the Haitian people.
For more news about the relief offorts in Haiti, visit visit http://www.navy.mil/haiti/index.html.
For more news from USNS Comfot, visit www.navy.mil/local/tah20.