Gaafar Uherbelau

After the near-tragic event on March 3, where three medical personnel and a boat operator were lost at sea for a day and a half, the Ministry of Health and Human Services (MHHS) said it is moving to centralize its outreach standard operating procedures, to prevent unsafe incidents in the future.

On March 3, 2023, a medical team conducting outreach service at Angaur, got swept off course after departing the State due to a sudden turn in weather conditions.  The boat and its passengers drifted 30 miles south of Angaur and were found the afternoon of the next day after a Search and Rescue Operation was called.

Minister Gaafar Uherbelau said that it had been a practice for each program of the MHHS to coordinate its own outreach. They usually hire certain boats and operators they knew to transport them to the outlying States.

During the brief welcoming ceremony after the rescue, it was found out that the boat was lacking in terms of some basic safety equipment and the boat driver was not fully trained on the boat safety equipment.

“Moving forward, we will ensure one standard operating procedure (SOP) for all outreach programs.  It will no longer be each program coordinating its own outreach. It will be centralized so any team going to one of the outlying states will follow a process, and there will be accountability,” explained Minister of Health and Human Service Gaafar Uherbelau.

Ministry of Health and Human Services has its own boat donated by Shin Kong Hospital but Minister Uherbelau said it’s being serviced and has been on dry dock for about a year.  MHSS will need to hire a boat operator to operate its boat but in the meantime, programs within the MHHS will go through the centralized system to book an outreach.

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