Nov. 5 (UPI) -- About 900 personnel operating, off of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, have started medical operations in Paita, Peru, as part of U.S. Southern Command's Enduring Promise initiative.
Medical personnel from the military, non-governmental organizations and partner nations, started screening potential surgical patients there on Oct. 30, with two sites fully operational by Nov. 1st. The mission stop is expected by the Navy to be fully wrapped up by Nov. 6th.
The stop is the second on the Comfort's 11-week medical mission to Central and South America in support of U.S. Southern Command's Enduring Promise initiative. Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Honduras are partners included in the program to help relieve shortages in medical care in the region.
Enduring Promise 2018 is part of a long running series of humanitarian operations in Central and South America conducted by U.S. Southern Command, including medical missions and other relief operations. USNS Comfort has deployed to the region five times in the past and has treated over 300,000 patients and performed more than 6,000 surgeries.
"We have an incredibly robust team with a wide ranging portfolio of medical service offerings," Capt. Kevin Buckley, commanding officer of Medical Treatment Facility aboard Comfort, said in a press release.
"While Comfort is here in Paita this week, medical units will provide preventative medicine treatments, optometry, dermatology, women's health, adult medicine, pediatrics, and dental and surgical screenings to thousands of patients," Buckley said.
A surge in cross-border migrants who often need medical care has put increased strain on already overstretched health services across South and Central America.
The Comfort is a non-commissioned USNS ship crewed mainly by civilians with naval attachments. It is a mobile ship-based Level III medical facility which is capable of initial treatment, surgical operations and post-operative care.
Its mission, along with its sister ship USNS Mercy, is to support both combat military operations with treatment of casualties to provide medical services during humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
Depending on the operational requirements it can accommodate over 1,200 medical personnel and up to 1,000 bedded patients. The vessel has a flight deck capable of landing a large variety of military and civilian helicopters.
The Comfort was first deployed for Operation Desert Storm and has participated in multiple disaster relief and and combat operations to the present day. The vessel carries no offensive weaponry and an attack on it would be considered a war crime under international law.