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U.S. officials donate hospital to Chilean community

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
U.S. government officials donated an expeditionary hospital to local Chilean officials in a ceremony here March 24.

Paul Simons, the U.S. Ambassador to Chile, presented Enrique Neira, the mayor of Angol, with a certificate representing the transfer of the hospital to the local community of Angol.

The hospital in Angol was severely damaged in an 8.8-magnitude earthquake Feb. 27. With the loss of the regional hospital, local medical officials lost the use of 190 beds. At the request of the Chilean government officials, an Air Force Expeditionary Medical Support team deployed to Angol to build a hospital to serve the more than 110,000 people in the region.

The 83 Airmen assigned to the EMEDs team arrived in Chile March 10 and with help from members of the Angol community, the Chilean army and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the hospital was fully operational by March 13.

This field hospital will augment medical care in the region for the next two to three years while the Angol hospital is being rebuilt.

"It's a tremendous facility," Mr. Simons said. "Not only is it a tremendous facility, but it's very clear that the spirit of cooperation between U.S. Air Force, the Chilean army and Chilean health officials here that (Airmen have) been able to develop here over the last two weeks is just sensational. The fact that the U.S. Air Force was able to step up to the plate so quickly is just fantastic. We're very proud of our service men and women that are here working in Chile."

Initially, Airmen built a hospital with a 10-bed capacity and one operating room. After assessing the medical needs of the local community, Airmen expanded the hospital to include two operation wards and the capacity to hold about 70 beds. Also, Airmen constructed six general purpose tents for medical equipment and supplies.

Prior to the building of this hospital, medical professionals in Angol used a 16-bed clinic to treat patients in the community. With the addition of this hospital, health professionals in Angol will have back more than 60 percent of the beds lost as a result of the earthquake.

"This, what you are doing for the community of Angol, are gestures that broaden the community, expand our cities, and above all, also justify the great pain that our community had to live through following this tragedy," Mayor Neira said. "In the name of all the authorities, and all the health officials of this community, and the rest of the officials in the community of Angol, we would like to just thank you, infinitely thank you and trust that our country will continue to receive blessings like the one we received today."