After traveling thousands of miles and spending thousands of dollars to come to Union Island to dive for two weeks, I developed an ear infection that left me unable to dive on the fifth day. Thankfully, it cleared up after a couple days and it also gave me the opportunity to meet the wonderfully helpful people at the Celina Clouden Smart Hospital in Clifton. After getting checked out initially by the doctor, she said I could come back free of charge as often as I needed to get my ears flushed, which greatly helped my ears in healing.
On one of these return trips, I talked with one of the attendants, Clint, who was kind enough to answer plenty of my questions about the health center. The health center has a male attendant and a female attendant. He explained that the health center sees about 5 patients a day during his day shift (which lasts 8 hours) and that typically only deals with minor things like the flu or injuries from falls. For anything serious, they do their best to stabilize the patient followed by sending them on a Coast Guard boat to the mainland of St. Vincent. The trip takes less than 2 hours with the Coast Guard, as opposed to the 4 hours on the ferry. On Thursdays, a doctor is available to be seen for free in Clifton, and the same goes for the other town on Union Island, Ashton, on Tuesdays. Visiting on other days, as I did, requires payment, although it only cost me the equivalent of $25 USD.
Despite the limited size and capabilities of the health center, it is still a modern health facility, equipped with stores of plenty of lifesaving treatments and devices such as an autoclave for cleaning equipment. A massive generator is housed in an adjacent building so that patients never have to go without electricity and a solar water heater is installed on the roof. A radiology lab is part of planned expansion to the facility as well, along with other changes that are intended to make it more resilient to climate change.
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. During these courses, students learn scientific diving techniques over a 10-14 day period and carry out research and monitoring of coral reefs at various sites. Many of these courses are done in partnership with local environmental organizations, like the Union Island Environmental Alliance and the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.