Free eye care proved popular during Tropic Care Kaua‘i

• Editor’s Note: Tropic Care Kaua‘i provided free health care services to an estimated 7,000 people on the island between Feb. 28 and May 10 through three clinics. Here is a report from Tech Sgt. Melissa E. Chatham of the Air National Guard Readiness Center on the popularity of optometry services provided by active-duty and reserve military personnel.

HANAPEPE — Optometrists were in high demand at the Tropic Care Kaua‘i Hanapepe Innovative Readiness Training facility.

Active and reserve Navy, Air Force and Army members set up three field-operated medical facilities in Kapa‘a, Lihu‘e and Hanapepe as part of an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) mission.

Military members provided medical, ophthalmology and dental support services to Hawai‘i residents, while conducting deployment and readiness training from Feb. 28 through Friday.

 In Hanapepe, the ophthalmology line was longer than any of the other services.

“I had no idea of how much demand there was in Hawai‘i for ophthalmology, but just looking at the line outside, you can see which line is the longest. It’s been like that the entire time,” said Air National Guard Lt. Col. Vince Simoncini from the 113th Medical Group in Washington, D.C.

 “We could be here for a month and I don’t think we would ever meet the demand, he said.

Optometrists at the Hanapepe location assisted more patients due to the optometry deployment kits they were given. They also found different ways each day to improve their efficiency and timeliness of service. The patient count increased each day, as well.  Optometrists saw more than 300 patients per day, providing free eye exams and eye wear.

Working efficiently and adjusting our process to accommodate the patients without cutting corners, that has been valuable training for us,” Simoncini said. “The technicians have also been able to do things that they can’t back at home.”

The primary purpose of the IRT mission was to conduct deployment, readiness and logistics training in an expeditionary, multi-service environment providing post-disaster relief.

While that is the primary mission, it is also the military’s civic duty to assist fellow Americans in need of assistance.

“The people couldn’t be more gracious and kind. These are the warmest people I’ve ever met”, Simoncini said. “Training is ultimately why we are here, but we can’t overlook the humanitarian aspect of it because that’s the real joy in this mission!”

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