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Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training Program Delivers $2.25 Million in Medical Services During USVI Wellness Fair 2024

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The VI Department of Health is proud to announce that the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training Program (DoD-IRT) delivered $2.25 million in medical services to residents during the USVI Wellness Fair held territorywide June 1 – 8, 2024.

According to DoD-IRT data, the medical mission provided approximately $2,252,313 in fair market value medical care, at no cost to the residents of the US Virgin Islands. The military medical professionals served 2,112 residents and performed 14,256 procedures, across three islands. Additionally, while in the Territory, service members received 28,967 hours of valuable training at a fair market value of $1,227,189.

“We are incredibly grateful to DoD-IRT and for the services provided to our residents. Their efforts far exceeded our expectations,” said VI Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion. “Our top priority is to improve access to quality healthcare to the people of this Territory, especially to those who are uninsured or underinsured and face challenges in accessing care and our collaboration with the DoD-IRT has made a significant impact in that effort.”

The DoD-IRT team arrived in the Territory on May 30th-31st, more than 300 strong, with medical equipment. The team comprised members from the 349th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, the 439th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, the 184th Medical Group, and other medical units from across the nation. Working for eight days, the team provided no-cost medical evaluations, dental care including fillings and extraction, complete eye exams with prescription glasses, and pediatric physicals and vaccination.

Commissioner Encarnacion tasked Dr. Tai Hunte-Ceasar, Chief Medical Officer for the VI Department of Health, with leading the coordination effort with the DoD-IRT. From the submittal of medical mission application to the arrival of the IRT in the USVI, the planning took a year of working closely with the Office of the Governor and the departments of Education, Police, Human Services, Property and Procurement, Management and Budget, the VI National Guard, VI Fire EMS, Schneider Regional Medical Center, University of the Virgin Islands, and the Bureau of Information Technology.

“This large-scale event was the first of its kind and would not have been possible without the support of our partners across the GVI, the healthcare community, FEMA and other federal partners, and the generosity of the USVI business community,” said Dr. Hunte-Ceasar. “We faced challenges such as power interruptions, reaching provider capacity, and supply shortages. However, the IRT collaborated with the local community to problem-solve and adjusted to meet their requirements.”

Dr. Hunte-Ceasar noted that the DoD-IRT remained connected with MiFi and Link devices donated by Viya for both the St. Thomas and St. Croix fair sites and that FEMA provided generator support – both critical lifelines. The healthcare community supported with medical supplies including Wilson Healthcare Consultants, The Medicine Shoppe, Neighborhood Pharmacy, Diamond Pharmacy, Apotheek Pharmacy, Golden Rock Pharmacy, Mt. Welcome Pharmacy, Connor Dental Center, VI Dental, Dental 360, Plessen Ophthalmology, Roy Lester Schneider Hospital and Juan F. Luis Hospital.

Healthcare providers, centers, and programs also supported the local connection to care following the IRT services including Urban Foot Care Center, Paradise Chiropractic and Wellness Center, St. Croix neurologist Dr. Luis Frais, Tropical Behavioral Services, the Frederiksted Health Center Inc., the St. Thomas East End Medical Clinic, the VI Diabetes Center of Excellence, DHS’ Medicaid Program and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor’s VI State Health Insurance Assistance Program (VI SHIP).

“Most of all we want to the thank our residents for their patience and understanding while they waited for services and for sharing their words of appreciation with the medical team,” Dr. Hunte-Ceasar said.

Commissioner Encarnacion welcomed Dr. Hunte-Ceasar’s idea of bringing the DoD-IRT medical mission once again to the USVI and recognizes her for her passion to decrease disparities and ensure linkage to care remains top priority for the department. The VI Department of Health has applied for the DoD-IRT to return in 2025 and preliminary planning has already begun.

“There is a tremendous need specifically for the services that will be provided, and we look forward to continuously working together in the future,” Commissioner Encarnacion said.