Sunday, July 1, 2012
The Army as Physician of Last Resort
With Chile's government struggling with a health crisis, the Army has been sent out to provide emergency medical care to the civilian population. Mobile hospital units are operating at two hospitals in the metropolitan region, providing emergency-room treatment and hospitalization for the most ill patients. It's flu season on Chile, and a nasty virus is going around. It's estimated that cases of respiratory illness are up 70% compared with last year. So, President Sebastian Piñera ordered the Army out of the barracks and into the emergency wards. It's not the first time the Army Modular Campaign Hospital has rendered aid to civilians. In fact, it's been deployed 29 times since 2001, performing hundreds of surgeries. Its long list of missions underscores how the armed forces are an integral part of the social safety net, much like they are also the muscle of Chile's disaster response system. Update: The Army's role as administrator of social programs doesn't stop with health care. The Army also has been put in charge of a homeless shelter at a stadium. This came as a cold wave in Santiago left several homeless people dead.