The floating hospital will serve 11 communities, roughly 700,000 people.
The long distances and rough terrain of the Amazon have long made it difficult for doctors and missionaries alike to reach those in need. Now, in response to the need for religious and medical transportation and in preparation of Synod on the Amazon, which is to take place in the Vatican next October, The Tablet reports the Diocese of Óbidos has constructed a medical boat which will travel the Amazon River in order to serve the people’s physical and spiritual needs.
The boat, named for Pope Francis, will become a permanent fixture on the Amazon River, and will travel back and forth a stretch of about one thousand kilometers in order to serve eleven communities. It is estimated that the “Hospital Boat Pope Francis” will provide access to health care and religious instruction to about 700,000 people.
According to The Tablet, the idea arose from a 2013 meeting between Pope Francis and Brazilian friars. Leading the project is German bishop Bernardo Bahlmann, OFM, who explained that when people in the area become sick, they do not tend to leave in search of treatment.
According to The Tablet, the sick an infirm along the Amazon River will have access to antibiotics, a surgical center, a laboratory, and nursery beds. The hospital boat will be able to perform blood tests and vaccinations.
During the inaugural Mass celebrated for the new floating medical facility, on July 6, Bishop Bahlmann said:
“After a long time, we finally receive the Hospital Boat Pope Francis, which came to save many lives and offer health assistance to the people of this region. This is an extraordinary moment of us. We needed a solution to look after the people near the Amazon River. We had a dream but we did not know how to accomplish this.”