The floating hospital has brought needed healthcare and relief to thousands of people along the Amazon river.
The Pope Francis Hospital Ship (Barco-Hospital Papa Francisco) completed three years of operation on August 17, 2022.
An initiative of the Saint Francis of Assisi in the Providence of God Association and Fraternity, the ship measures 105 feet (32 meters) long and has 22 permanent staff members, including sailors, nursing teams, pharmacists, radiology technicians, and cooks. To date, more than 880 doctors and dentists have provided volunteer care on the boat.
The Pope Francis Hospital Ship is based in Óbidos, in the state of Pará in northern Brazil, but travels through more than a thousand riverside communities in 12 municipalities of the Amazon region. The monthly expeditions last about a week.
The floating hospital has a modern structure and is equipped with medical and dental offices, a surgical center, an ophthalmology room, a clinical analysis laboratory, a pharmacy, a vaccination room, and infirmary beds, as well as X-ray, mammography, echocardiogram, ultrasound, and electrocardiogram equipment.
The service is focused on basic health care for the population, but the teams also work on prevention and the early diagnosis of cancer.
3 years in numbers
In these three years of operation, the Pope Francis Hospital Boat has achieved impressive numbers. The initiative has taken medical attention and health to one of the most complex regions of Brazil, marked by low infrastructure and difficulties for transportation and access to services of all kinds, especially medical and dental.
Since 2019, the ship has achieved the following:
- 276,713 health services offered
- 56 expeditions to riverside communities
- more than 58,000 patients attended
- about 88,000 diagnostic exams
- more than 11,000 dental consultations
- 13,000 dental procedures
- more than 2,000 surgeries
During this period, more than 37,000 prescriptions were also filled and approximately 53,000 meals were provided.
The ship was forced to interrupt many of its expeditions during the pandemic. Even so, the services in specific regions continued. In fact, in this difficult period for healthcare, the mobile hospital offered emergency relief for distant communities that suffered from the lack of oxygen and hospital beds. In 2021, the year that marked the second wave of COVID in Brazil, the ship provided 112,000 services to the population, 36,000 more than in 2020.
Pope Francis’ call
The initiative to create the Pope Francis Hospital Ship was born during 2013 World Youth Day, when Pope Francis himself visited a hospital run by the St. Francis in the Providence of God Fraternity in Rio de Janeiro. On that occasion, the pope asked Friar Francisco, founder of the institution, if the Fraternity was present in the Amazon. When Friar Francis answered “no,” the pontiff said, “Then you must go!”
The first step in answering this call was to take over the administration of two hospitals in the region. “We realized that the people living on the banks of the Amazon River had difficulty reaching the hospitals, so we thought that the only way was for the hospital to go to them, like the Church that Pope Francis wants, which goes out to the people,” explained Friar Francisco at the time.