(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — The Jamaican Government and the United States of America Embassy in Kingston are refuting claims on social media that the US Navy Hospital Ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) is in the island to cause harm to Jamaicans.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and public affairs officer at the United States of America Embassy in Kingston, Jeremiah Knight, spoke to the Jamaica Observer during a media tour of the ship and one of the designated walk-in sites on Monday.
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton (left) greets one of the individuals who turned up in Kingston on Monday to access medical services being offered by the team from the US Navy Hospital Ship USNS Comfort.
The USNS Comfort is a 10-floor hospital ship that boasts 1,000 beds. It is docked in Kingston, for the third time, to offer free medical care to citizens. However, some Jamaicans are wary of the mission.
“Am I the only one concerned that the US is giving free care to another country while their own suffer,” one Facebook user said.
Another Facebook user said: “I heard that they are [bringing] Ebola to the Caribbean and it is a plot to kill off black people.”
Regarding the concerns that the US does not provide free health care for its own citizens, Knight said there are systems in place for the needy in America, and that USNS Comfort’s visit to Jamaica is a humanitarian effort that is part of public health partnerships necessary to build other nations.
“In the US there are systems in which we provide support for health for American citizens. Also, these are American citizens giving back and I think it’s a positive story regarding how we partner with other nations. It’s a win-win for us,” he said.
Dr Tufton also encouraged Jamaicans to not be fearful of going for treatment if they are in need, as they are here to provide well-needed care.
The health minister also responded to concerns about health care being unaffordable in the USA, yet the services are being provided at no cost here.
“I can’t speak for the US people or for their Government, I can speak for people I serve in Jamaica and my position is that we have to deal with public health as a collaborative global effort, and the truth is as a people, as a global citizen, we are vulnerable depending on where weaknesses are because of our cross-border interaction, travelling, and other things that we do. For us, we welcome the vessel, we welcome the people that are here, and the contents that they have brought,” he said.
The USNS Comfort will offer free medical services until November 1, with approximately 150 surgeries scheduled to take place on-board the vessel. The procedures will include general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, oral maxillofacial surgery, plastic surgery, and wound care.