February IHS Project Report

When not on the radio KX5SP working as oral surgery assistant.

When not on the radio KX5SP working as oral surgery assistant.

International Health Service (IHS), a non-profit, non-religious, all volunteer organization with headquarters in Minnesota (ihsmn.org), has been providing medical and dental care to the impoverished people in the most remote areas of Honduras for 30 years. Every year approximately ten teams including physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, eyeglass techs, engineers, and radio operators spread out across Honduras, the poorest country in Central America. Many of the remote villages that we serve make the phrase “off the grid” seem like luxury. Some locations require long travels on river boats to reach. Others require a flight into remote back-country airstrips to get to. There are some locations we operate in where there is no indigenous electricity, no cell service, no internet, no running water, etc.

The majority of these teams deploy with an experienced amateur radio operator to provide a communications link for the team to the outside world. For the most part Pactor 3 on the Winlink system is used to send and receive email from villages with little infrastructure. Messages may be medical consultations with specialists, arrangements for patient transfers to hospitals or our surgery team location, coordination with IHS staff in Honduras, and health and welfare messages from the medical team members to their families back home.

This past February 2018 I deployed as a radio operator to support a medical/dental team to villages in the western mountains of Honduras. I set up a Yaesu FT-100D, SCS Pactor modem, and an end-fed long wire strewn thru the trees. Any of the ubiquitous system of Winlink RMS gateway stations was available to connect to of course, but N5TW, a mega-station in central Texas supported our Honduras deployment by aiming his vast antenna farm beaming towards Honduras during our time down there. I found the Winlink system to be virtually 100% dependable. N5TW was consistently 7 S-units above the low noise floor. There was only one time I was not able to establish a connection with N5TW and that was when he had to disconnect during a lightning storm. In that case I had no trouble connecting with an RMS in Sarasota, Florida to send and receive traffic.

I have been providing emergency communications for various entities for many years. Just 2 months before my Honduras mission I found myself doing emergency communications on the island of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Then too, the primary mode of communications was Pactor 3 & 4 into the Winlink system. Unquestionably Winlink has become the dependable standard for serious, real-world EMCOMMs.

The IHS is always looking for radio communications talent to support these medical teams. It's not for everybody. An “outdoors type” with camping experience (you may be living out of a tent), very flexible personality, and experience with HF communications is the ideal candidate. Those interested in more information can contact the IHS Communications Director, John Kirkof, KB0UUP, for more information at: jmkkek at yahoo dot com.

I have been all over the world on a lot of interesting missions but found my Honduras mission was the most personally rewarding.

[Ed. Read Winlink 2000 in the Jungle from QST to get more information about IHS projects and Winlink.]

Dr. Steve Posner KX5SP/HR6 (now back stateside)

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