BLOWING ROCK — A team of relief workers from Samaritan’s Purse, bringing with them stacks of PPE and 14-tons of medical supplies, recently touched down in the Bahamas, part of an effort to combat the increasing number of COVD-19 cases currently overwhelming the the nation’s medical facilities. The relief team, which made the trip the urging of the country’s Prime Minister, includes High Country locals who are lending their time to help curb the spread of the disease, which includes teaching infection prevention training and constructing a 28 bed COVID-19 facility.
“We have about 30 to 40 people all together, they come from all over the United States, with a good number of them from our headquarters located in Boone that are here,” said Dr. Elliot Tenpenny, a Samaritan’s Purse team leader currently working in the Bahamas. “A lot of the staff are Boone locals that are deploying down here and setting this hospital up.”
This deployment marks the second emergency deployment of the organization to the Bahamas.
Samaritan’s Purse has been contributing to relief efforts in the country since Hurricane Dorian struck the island in September, 2019. Following the hurricane, the humanitarian organization arrived in the Bahamas where they built a 40-bed field hospital on Grand Bahama Island and distributed emergency medical supplies.
“We set up an emergency field hospital here after the hurricane to take care of the island’s medical needs and we have continued to do work throughout the last year, helping in rebuilding efforts and different types of humanitarian work,” said Tenpenny. “We were invited by the prime minister to come and serve the people here during this COVID-19 outbreak.”
Six month prior to their deployment, Samaritan’s Purse also set up an emergency field hospital similar to the one being constructed in the Bahamas in New York City and Cremona, Italy.
According to Alyssa Benson, media coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse, the organization has adjusted their programming in 17 field offices worldwide in response to the global pandemic. These programs include distributing food to at risk families now without income and educating communities about proper water sanitation and hygiene.
Currently in Sudan, Samaritan’s Purse is partnering with 25 hospitals to provide an Infection Prevention and Control mentorship program for regional healthcare professionals. The organization’s medical staff has so far trained 1,140 Sudanese medical professionals in effective Infection Prevention and Control protocols. Meanwhile in Bolivia, missionaries have worked tirelessly to distribute food and hygiene kits to those in need. So far, more than 2,750 people have received parcels of rice and flour and 1,550 people have received hygiene kits in response to COVID-19.
As the number of COVID-19 continues to rise in the Bahamas, Samaritan’s Purse staff are hastily working to complete the new 28 bed healthcare facility, which is projected to take about a week to complete.
“It’s a real challenge, the healthcare system here runs at a high capacity, at their hospital normally between 90 to 100 percent, so when you add 100 or 200 more patients due an outbreak it makes it very, very challenging,” said Tenpenny. “The whole country right now is in a state of lockdown.”
Aside from medical staff, the relief team sent to the Bahamas by Samaritan’s Purse also includes a variety of tradesmen intended to speed the construction process along.
“We have operations specialists, people in water, sanitation, electrical, engineers and things like that to make sure we can get this thing up and running as quickly as possible,” said Tenpenny. “I think we have a great opportunity to help a lot of people here,”
To learn more about Samaritan’s Purse and their humanitarian efforts, visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org/.