You may remember that I had posted a blog entry previously about my adventures in Timor Leste; it is a poor but beautiful country, just beginning to flourish after being freed from 20+ years of brutal Indonesian occupation. I've just returned from a 3 week trip there again this past month and this time, I had the opportunity to witness a floating hospital at work: the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship USNS Mercy, one of the U.S.'s largest portable trauma facilities. Anchored in the harbor for several days every few months, Mercy's crew provides humanitarian assistance and medical care to the citizens of Timor Leste, focusing on public health, preventive medicine, reproductive health, dental treatment, primary care, and health education. They even have a spay-neuter clinic where citizens can bring their pets to control overpopulation.
This is a wonderful idea; it is an inspiring picture of humanity at its best. It also raises a question in my mind -- if we are willing to do this for other countries (and I think we should), why are we not able to provide basic health care for our own in need in this country?