Tropic Care is coming back

LIHUE — Tropic Care 2016 will be held in June at three sites — Eleele Elementary School, Kapaa Middle School and Kauai Community College.

Free medical services that will be offered include dental, medical and optometric care, sports physicals, eyeglass production, adult health exams, tooth extractions and oral checkups.

“Many Kauai residents lack medical insurance, or are underinsured,” said Dr. Dileep Bal. “These are people who cannot afford to be seen by a doctor, dentist, optometrist or mental health professional, or put off these visits. These IRT operations address a range of significant unmet health care needs of Kauai residents.”

Tropic Care is a Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) operation which provides military reservists with real world rapid deployment training. IRT is a multi-service operation that provides medical support to a variety of underserved American populations located in remote, or rural areas throughout the United States and U.S. territories.

County officials were briefed about the grant-funded program in meetings that ended Friday.

“The most difficult part of doing dental services is the amount of time and the amount of work which can be performed,” said Toni Torres, a public health nurse with the state’s Department of Health.“We do have dental being offered at the different Tropic Care sites, and people are able to visit the other sites where the waits are less.”

Another possibility is to confine services to the more severe cases and eliminate some of the dental cleaning services.

Bal said during Tropic Care 2012, 400 military reserve health professionals and support staff provided more than 10,000 routine health procedures free of charge. These included 2,200 medical exams, 3,000 dental visits and 5,000 optometry exams.

This number grew to more than 22,000 routine health procedures in Tropic Care 2014.

“I got free glasses during the last Tropic Care,” said Cathy Simao, a secretary in the mayor’s office. “I’m glad they’re coming back.”

Lt. Col. Tamra Buettgenbach of the U.S. Air Force 190th Air Refueling unit from Kansas will lead Tropic Care when it opens here in June. He was pleased with the reception for Tropic Care.

“I just want to thank the people of Kauai,” Buettgenbach said. “I am enjoying the island, and after visiting the three Tropic Care sites, it is very nice of the communities to give so much access to this program.”

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