South American doctors are thrilled to get medical supplies from south Georgia - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South American doctors are thrilled to get medical supplies from south Georgia

July 29, 2003

Maldonado, Uruguay- Dr. Gustavo Ventura is a ball of energy in a lab coat as he busily checks on multiple patients in a crowded hospital emergency room in Maldonado, Uruguay. It's not unusual to see dozens of people waiting in line to see a doctor. "We need care for the actual physical building as well as the machines and equipment to care for the people," Dr. Ventura said through an interpreter.

And help has arrived. In a storage shed behind the hospital, soldiers are swinging hammers, noisily cracking open wooden shipping crates that just arrived from Albany. The Uruguayan soldiers are stationed at a nearby Army base. As a service to the hospital, they're helping unload supplies from the U-S Department of Defense. "These programs are wonderful. It's always great to have any kind of help and supplies," Ventura said.

The U-S Ambassador to Uruguay says it's our country's responsibility to help when we can. "A child who needs medicine should not be prevented from getting medical care that he needs because of geographical borders," Martin Silverstein said.

Five hospitals in Uruguay are getting supplies in this shipment. The hospital in Maldonado alone received 13,000 pounds, $190,000 worth of medical supplies. For the hospital director, it's almost like Christmas morning. "Yes, it's a very exciting day," Dr. Maria Aguerre said after opening box after box. "Our primary concern is helping the people and any time something can help the people, it's a good day."

And it's a good day for the south Georgia workers who put this shipment of excess military supplies together for South America. "We're now able to get into the country and shake hands with them and share in their joy," said Program Director Bill Lane.

Our military leaders say this humanitarian program makes for a safer world. "It helps stabilize the country, stabilize democracy in the country. Then these folks are able to assist us as allies," Chief Officer of Defense Cooperation Jerry Miller said. The Air Force Colonel said Americans should know about the program and support it. "Your work is doing fantastic good, so thank you very much," Miller said. He said we should be proud that our military is helping keep the peace in countries around the world by helping keep their people healthy.

posted at 11:45 p.m. by ben.roberts@walb.com