Tropic Care no-cost health services reporting for duty
This military training exercise is providing medical, dental, vision care across the county — but it ends Sunday
KIHEI — Despite just having a molar removed, June Wilhelm was in a good mood Monday afternoon at St. Theresa Church in Kihei.
Wilhelm and her daughter, Ipo, were getting their decaying molars removed as part of Tropic Care Maui County 2018, a no-cost health care clinic being put on by the military this week.
“Not even 10 minutes and they extracted it,” Ipo Wilhelm said of her mother’s procedure. “It’s awesome. It’s very greatly appreciated.”
Tropic Care is both a clinic and a training mission, allowing military service members to keep their medical training sharp while providing health care for the local community. The clinics started Saturday and run through Sunday in six locations across Maui, Molokai and Lanai. No insurance, proof of income, residency or photo identification is needed, and patients are served on a first-come, first-served basis.
More than 350 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines came to Maui County to participate in the clinics, which are taxpayer funded and part of a U.S. Department of Defense initiative called Innovative Readiness Training.
The clinics simulate field conditions and train service members to “work with what you have,” explained Petty Officer 3rd Class Rob Yturralde, a Navy combat medic who’s attached to a Marine unit.
“Our equipment is not what you would find in a hospital or you would find in an actual clinic,” said Yturralde, who’s stationed in Sacramento, Calif. “All our equipment here is set up for field conditions where it’s portable at any moment.
. . . When you’re in the field, and let’s say you’re deployed overseas in different countries, they’re not going to ship that whole hospital over there.”
Senior Airman Brittney Taylor, a medical technician with the Washington Air National Guard, said that Tropic Care also trains the different branches of the military to work together during deployments.
“Because a lot of times it’s not just an Air Force deployment or Navy or Army,” Taylor said. “We’re always working together. So this gets us prepared to be able to work with a joint military, and also to make sure we get our training in because we have to have a certain amount of training to be ready for deployment.”
Taylor said dental and optometry have been popular services.
“A lot of times people let their teeth go or their vision go,” she said. “Dental and optometry isn’t cheap.”
June Wilhelm came Monday because she had an irritated molar that needed extracting. Her daughter said that they don’t have a regular dentist and that while their insurance would cover a regular check-up, a molar extraction could set them back a few hundred dollars.
“It’s pretty awesome what they’re doing,” Ipo Wilhelm said. “I think this is something everybody should know about.”
June Wilhelm was also grateful.
“They take care of everybody, and they’re so friendly,” she said shortly after her procedure.
Rachel Moli said she’s lived on Maui for nearly three years now but doesn’t have health insurance. She has diabetes and came in to get her blood sugar levels and other vital signs checked.
“It’s useful, plus it’s free,” Moli said. “It’s really helpful, and for people, it’s good for them to check it out, check your health.”
Moli, who’s originally from New Zealand, added that she lost her glasses the other day and had to buy a generic pair at the drugstore. She was able to get fitted for a proper prescription on Monday and was awaiting her new pair.
Maj. Steven Martin, a physician assistant stationed with the Air Force in Terre Haute, Ind., said that the 58 personnel at the Kihei clinic had served a 305 patients so far — 130 on Saturday, 81 on Sunday and 94 by noon on Monday. He said the last time a clinic had been held in Maui County was 2013.
Over the first two days, there have been 1,686 procedures in medical, optometry, dental and counseling/nutrition, representing $135,270 worth of care, said Capt. Hans Zeiger of the Washington Air National Guard, who is the public affairs officer for Tropic Care Maui County.
Clinics are taking place at the University of Hawaii Maui College in Kahului, St. Theresa Church in Kihei, Waiola Church in Lahaina, the Hana Community Center, the Mitchell Pauole Center in Kaunakakai and the Lanai Community Center. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Sunday is a half-day — 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Central Maui, Hana, Molokai and Lanai, and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Kihei and Lahaina. Dental services at the Molokai, Lanai and Hana sites will conclude Saturday.
All clinics offer physical health exams, school sports physicals (school forms required), blood pressure and disease screenings. Dental services include exams, fillings and extractions, while eye care services include vision screenings and prescriptions. The four Maui clinics also offer single-vision eyeglass fabrication, depending on supplies. No outside eyeglass prescriptions will be filled.
Patients are limited to one service a day, though the Hana clinic has been less crowded and has been able to see patients multiple times, Zeiger said.
“I promise we’re good people,” Yturralde said. “We don’t check ID. We don’t ask for cash. It’s at no cost. Don’t be afraid just because you hear it’s, oh, the military. . . . We’re here to help.”
For more information, visit mauicounty.gov/1933/Tropic-Care-2018.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at email@example.com.