Canvasback Missions is planning to provide five medical team visits to Ebeye and Majuro next year as it expands its services to Palau and other US-affiliated islands in the Pacific.
For the first time in its over 30 years of operating in the Marshall Islands, Canvasback is expanding with its first medical mission to Palau in October, and has been asked by officials in American Samoa to extend its services there. It resumed services to the Federated States of Micronesia recently.
An ear-nose-throat (ENT) medical team visit for Majuro scheduled for this month was postponed due to non-working diagnostic equipment at Majuro hospital. It has now been rescheduled for February 1-12, and patients with ENT problems need to be screened by Dr. Aristotle Cruz at Majuro hospital to be referred to the incoming team. Majuro will get one additional team visit next year. From February 29 to March 11, a gynecology team will visit. Any women needing services should similarly go to Majuro hospital for screening to be referred to the Canvasback gynecology team.
Ebeye will see three team visits with different specialities in 2016: Ophthalmology (eye), dental and dermatology teams will visit Ebeye next year. Dates are still being worked out. The continuous provision of dental teams to Ebeye is now paying off, Canvasback co-founder Jacque Spence said. She was on Ebeye earlier this month with a dental team, the fifth year in a row that Canvasback has provided a dental team in response to requests from Ebeye hospital.
When Canvasback sent its first dental team to Ebeye five years ago, they were astounded with the overall dental problems of children on the island. “If a child showed up with teeth like that in the US, you’d have to report them to Child Protective Services,” she said. “This month was our fifth year of annual dental visits and we are seeing good looking teeth now from the use of sealants.” All second to fifth grade students on Ebeye are run through the dental visit, meaning Ebeye dental staff and Canvasback dentists get to see most of these children for repeat visits over a several year period.
Spence said the California-based group is taking an orthopedic team to Palau in October — the first time for Canvasback to work with Palau’s Ministry of Health to provide services. The Ministry of Health requested an orthopedic visit to Majuro hospital, but Canvasback says it cannot be scheduled until the hospital hires an orthopedic doctor. Follow up is critical to orthopedic services provided to patients during a two-week mission by Canvasback, which is why having an orthopedic doctor in place at Majuro hospital is a must before a visit can be scheduled, Spence said, adding that one is soon to be hired.
Canvasback has worked in partnership with the Ministry of Health since the mid-1980s, first employing sailing vessels to deliver medical teams to remote outer islands. In recent years, it has shifted its focus to Majuro and Ebeye, where the majority of the population resides.
Spence said American Samoa asked for a team in 2016 and “we’re looking into it.” She expects to receive requests from the FSM for 2016 visits following up on a visit they made this year to Yap state. It takes Canvasback months to obtain the hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations of medical supplies, equipment and medicines that it brings to support each medical mission, which makes advance planning from the islands to be visited an essential part of the package, Spence said.