DCFH suspends surgery due to lack of medical supplies

Elective surgery at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital (DCFH) has been suspended until further notice due to the lack of medical supplies. A memo from the hospital’s Medical Director, Dr Ruby Blanc, dated January 11, was circulated to many doctors who perform surgery at the facility.

“I regret to inform you that due to diminished supplies of pethidine as well as spiral needles, elective surgery list will have to be temporarily suspended effective Monday, January 15, 2024,” the memo reads.

According to drugs.com, pethidine is “used for the relief of moderate to severe pain for which alternative treatments are inadequate.”

Spiral needles are specialized needles used in surgical procedures. In her letter to the doctors, Dr Blanc stated that minor surgical cases and cases involving the lower limbs “may be able to be accommodated” however, “any elective surgeries being requested must therefore be discussed prior to submitting names, with Dr Beck Jno Baptiste OIC, Anesthesia.”

She wrote that the doctors will be informed as the situation is rectified.

“Be assured that significant efforts are being made to remedy the situation,” she wrote.

So, what is an elective surgery?

“Elective surgeries are important procedures that you can schedule in advance,” Alejandro Sanz, MD, a surgeon at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony’s Health Center in Alton, Illinois, explains on the website, osfhealthcare.org. “Elective surgeries are different from an urgent or emergency surgery, where the patient has an immediate, possibly life-threatening issue which requires medical attention.”

He said that elective surgeries can include cosmetic procedures like removing a mole or a wart but they can also include more serious conditions like hernia surgery; removing kidney stones or an appendix; and hip replacements.

“Elective surgeries are vital to a patient’s health and well-being,” Dr. Sanz stated on the website. “Breast cancer surgery like a mastectomy is critical to address, even though it might not qualify as an emergency procedure needing to be done that same day.”

He went on to say that elective surgeries allow doctors to work with patients to improve their overall health.

“One of the benefits of elective surgeries is the days or weeks patients use to improve their health before their procedure,” Dr. Sanz explained. “I tell patients that a surgery can be a physically demanding experience, so the best time for patients to improve their overall health is before an elective procedure.”

Meanwhile, many Dominicans have taken to social media to decry what they say is the poor state of Dominica’s health care system.

“Oh my God. We are finish in this place”, one person wrote on Facebook.

“This is serious, especially with this carnival season. Discouraging to visitors too. Why wait when supplies are depleted to take action?” another wrote.

Some blame hospital administrators for the matter.

“So you mean to tell me in a hospital these so called leaders and administrators allow supplies to finish before replenishing and you all write these letters with so much pride,” one person wrote.

“If a nation is not healthy there is no productivity. This place sickens me.”

Others blame the entire situation on the prime minister and the minister of health.

“How can you as a PM or the Minister responsible for Health be proud of what is going on in this country”,  one wrote.

“It’s either you DON’T CARE or you should be really ASHAMED. Cause it’s from Bad to Worst. And in Dominica alone that happens. Where’s the supposed plan that was put in place for our healthcare system.”

Copyright 2012 Dominica News Online, DURAVISION INC. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

Disclaimer: The comments posted do not necessarily reflect the views of DominicaNewsOnline.com and its parent company or any individual staff member. All comments are posted subject to approval by DominicaNewsOnline.com. We never censor based on political or ideological points of view, but we do try to maintain a sensible balance between free speech and responsible moderating.

We will delete comments that:

  • contain any material which violates or infringes the rights of any person, are defamatory or harassing or are purely ad hominem attacks
  • a reasonable person would consider abusive or profane
  • contain material which violates or encourages others to violate any applicable law
  • promote prejudice or prejudicial hatred of any kind
  • refer to people arrested or charged with a crime as though they had been found guilty
  • contain links to "chain letters", pornographic or obscene movies or graphic images
  • are off-topic and/or excessively long

See our full comment/user policy/agreement.


  1. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    January 17, 2024

    You are the one who caused London Bridge to fall you know, and so because of that they deport you back to Dominica, where you went to work with Roosevelt Skerrit Dominica’s government; and help him bankrupt the country!

    When the UWP got robbed almost thirty years ago they left plenty of money in the treasury, the first thing Roosevelt did was destroy the agriculture industry, then he went t work directly inside of the treasury and ensure he empty everything that was not nailed down: dem say all that money in him pocket oui!


    How much he gave you for assisting him to escape with the loot?
    I hear he gave you a single dollar eh!

    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      January 23, 2024

      That was intended in response to Man Dog!
      Well, he is English boy writing rubbish here anyway, once I mentioned deport from England and anything about London Bridge, he knows I’m talking to him!

  2. January 16, 2024

    Hello and good afternoon my people. Well I am coming home at the end of the month and I hope I don’t get sick where I would need surgery. If I do get sick while in Dominica and I require immediate surgery I hope I can come back to New York otherwise I will just die in my village of my birth. Our country priorities are mixed up for us to spend millions on carnival but our government can’t meet basic healthcare requirements for our citizens. How do they expect retired people like me to come back to Dominica when we can’t get basic medical care to enjoy our retirement. Basically if we return to Dominica we will lose our 401K investments and our life so best that I stay in New York. Thanks.

    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      January 18, 2024

      I don’t think you will lose your 401k or any other retirement benefits, pension nor social security.
      And you can give thanks to the late Mano Eugenia Charles, who made the arrangements between the United States, and all the British Government, that citizens of the three nations working in the three nations upon retirement if they decide to return to their original country of birth will not loose their retirement benefits.
      You need to research that and not only believe my words.
      Nevertheless, I know people who’s social security are sent to them in Antigua, Dominica too.
      I don’t know if she had the same arrangement with Canada: in any event, people’s retirement goes into a bank wherever they direct the State or Federal Government to send it, same applies to the source of one’s 401k!

  3. Lady
    January 15, 2024

    most advanced in d Caribbean.
    I wonder what they have to say now. covid? Maria? their usual scapegoats.

    hmmmm so they knew how to get outside help to build “state of d art” facility but to equip that facility is not their responsibility??? hmm hmmm

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1
  4. Scoping
    January 15, 2024

    This unsurprising, shameful and highly disturbing bit of news will do nothing to deter Dummynicans from taking to the streets to revel during the upcoming pagan carnival season.

    What about sobering up and peacefully coalescing to hold the DCFH administration and the current ruling government administration into account for a major dereliction of duty to provide adequate health care and services to the Dominican population???

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3
  5. Man bite dogs
    January 15, 2024

    Ever since that criminals infested so-called UWP corrupt nasties came to our shores Dominicans has become very evil and ungrateful place to be with their stupid politics and getting worse by the day jealousy and suspicion is raging through the b*****ds like crabs in a barrel very soon it will be Dog eat Dogs in Dominica if they don’t get their act together.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 30
    • I Still Red
      January 15, 2024

      Boy see the state of health in Dominica and folks like this man bites dog still defending Skerrit in this very poor state of health nou. Man are you that stupid or you just don’t care about Dominica? Are you resigning in Dominica? Do you have families residing here dog? Man you all can’t be this doltish to defend this at the expense of the wellbeing of fellow Dominicans. Look man I have been red much longer than you guys and still very red but I just can’t understand how anyone would defend the state of Dominica at this time.
      I have been at most of the health centers and hospitals on island and NEVER have I seen either the PM, his wife or children performing any health related procedures at any of the hospitals. Man if they have a cough for more than two days they fly them out and because the vast majority of us can’t even afford to make it to our nearest health center at time we have to plan a funeral and all you there defending Skerrit on that man. Do you guys still have a…

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1
    • Lady
      January 15, 2024

      I agree with u. d party that not in power and incapable of affecting government decisions presently are the ones who is to be blamed for this, instead of the present ruling party that should have medical necessities in the budget and actively making decisions for the country that should take responsibility.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      January 16, 2024

      Man Dog; I have a question for you: and let us not trade any insults at this time; but try and be realistic for just once in your life and truthfully answer this!
      How you manage to deduce the comments in your submission?
      “Ever since that criminals infested so-called UWP corrupt nasties came to our shores Dominicans has become very evil and ungrateful place to be with their stupid politics and getting worse by the day jealousy.”(Man Dog).
      With your very words brought to your attention; may I asks you how many years has Roosevelt Skerrit and the labor party are in power in the country; and how many years did Edison James and the UWP serve Dominica? UWP serve less than four years, since then Roosevelt controls Dominica for almost thirty years now! So how can you write that crap tying to blame UWP for Roosevelt incompetence, and the destruction of the country?
      Man Dog the UWP was in opposition; opposition parties don’t run the country; Roosevelt is to blame he screwed-up Dominica!

  6. Skerro
    January 15, 2024

    I taught it was state of art maybe state of axx when will dominicans open there eyes skerrit and his family can fly any where they want for medical treatment but some of all you have to stay in the cemetery hospital

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3
  7. Kaka kabwit
    January 15, 2024

    How is the Government responsible for a facility that is not directly under their supervision, there’s an administrator at the Hospital who should have been given a daily report, someone within this circle should be fired,and another thing,a hospital runs by paying patients, are the majority of patients paying their bills ?? also are the folks within the diaspora contributing to the islands development, seeing they Left the young independent development of the island in search of financial and educational purposes with the intent to return someday,it seems like they love when these mishaps happens so they can go on on their political a***ness

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 18
    • We the People
      January 16, 2024

      “How is the Government responsible for a facility that is not directly under their supervision …”

      You ought to direct this question to Mr. Cassanni

  8. Hello
    January 15, 2024

    So where has all our money gone? Remember when Skerrit, the stupidity Starboy, was blabbering that at a rally that he and his family have health insurance, but the ordinary man cant afford it, and therefore does not have? From this time i viewed the man as a wicked creature dominated only by self interest and greed!!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 3
  9. Ibo France
    January 15, 2024

    There is always some sort of headline grabbing event/news/story in Dominica. The sad thing is, these stories are inevitably damaging.

    The scarcity of essential medical supplies at the government owned hospital is unsurprising. This is the norm under Roosevelt’s stewardship. Look at many of the schools, police stations, public library, and many other government departments, they are in a serious state of disrepair or in short supply of crucial materials.

    The inferior man blames others. The minister of health is shifting blame on others and distancing himself from this monumental faux pas. He is not only inferior, but one should add incompetent, indolent, ineligible and inexpert.

    Let me repeat this for it is a real probability. The Roosevelt led mal-administration is an existential threat to Dominica. The country is on the periphery of a cataclysmic collapse. We need a change NOW more than ever before.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2
  10. We Watching
    January 15, 2024

    The SOS/PM should be looking about making better investments into the needs of the health care sector, while he is talking about investing in airlines. If you “run things” here in this banana republic, then you should take pride and make sure that everything under your watch is as tip top shape as possible. Instead it seems that only personal aggrandizement is what this SOS/PM is concerned about.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2
  11. Satan is a liar
    January 15, 2024

    I feel obligated to constantly remind Dominicans of the agenda of Satan even if DNO most times refuses to publish, although they know I am referring to Satan in the Bible. My people let me remind you of John 10:10

    The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:

    Here is it again from a different translation: john 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

    Satan stealing all you money to ensure all you broke and powerless then
    Satan killing all you one by one and
    Satan has destroyed our country and all yoy still keep bowing all you knees to Satan like Jim Jones and his worshippers.

    Again DNO I am referring to the Satan in the Bible

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2
  12. If we knew better
    January 15, 2024

    The Minister’s wife herself is on the board at the hospital. So really who is to blame? Lets just remember people, things have to get much worse before they begin to get better. We are only in the situation we are in because WE put ourselves there. But, who cannot hear will feel. State of the art they love to boast and toot their horn. State of the arse i call it. Dominica not going anywhere. Everybody of good use and good intention seem to be leaving. Even the Labor cronies leaving one by one too.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3
  13. rolls jeanbaptiste
    January 15, 2024

    This one take the crown ,what is the excuse for that. I have seen stupidity but never seen that much in Dominica. the most lazy, greedy, selfish and stupid People. Dominica needs a hand up not hand out. teach Dominican’s how too work for them self not how too beg for ever. what a sets of beggers.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2
  14. Marie
    January 15, 2024

    Well there we go again but on a weekly basis the Dictator tries to convince us that we never had it so good as at present. I actually say quite the opposite is true. At least we once had a basic hospital service that was functioning. Of course Skerrit and his cabal couldn’t care less, if anything is wrong with them they are transported abroad at the tax payer expense. But you all like it that way!!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2
  15. Magway ca
    January 15, 2024

    So 8 mil to do creole fest and how many hundred thousand to carnival .and you doh have money to buy meds to put in the hospital.

    No wonder Daryl titre leave the place and run go Antigua

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2
  16. Waiting For Airport
    January 15, 2024

    Any other country would burn down already… all now them farmers in Germany destroying government buildings for their rights… but D A… is like world boss give all you panty rice to eat and bazodee all you cause, awa

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4
  17. Bwa-Banday
    January 14, 2024

    LAAAAyBaaaR ka Twavaye tou bon mah! :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

    World boss on stage dancing like an enfimeetay and we doh have drugs or plaster for a likkle boeboe? :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: . Man like that need to take jail big time because they too wicked and hypocrite. I telling allu, once Daryl Ticket ran next door you can tell our ras is grass in Ma Dominique. SKERRO MUST GO!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2
  18. Rasta Pasta
    January 14, 2024

    Doe complain!! Is a “State of the arse” hospital.

    In some cultures, the top person in charge would take full responsibility and jump off a tall building.
    Instead, watch the Starboy of Stupidity who’s been “running tings” for over 20 years blame it on the opposition.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2
  19. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    January 14, 2024

    Indeed Lin Clown, ds, Puttin, Gary, and all you no name scoundrels; Man Dog, and Woman Dog, Lap-Dogs; and Roosevelt Skerrit; how can a rich country such as Dominica, the first resilient country on planet earth, building houses that can bend and return to their original shape.
    How come Dominica happens to be the richest country; so rich that the first and only whale sanctuary is found in Dominica?
    How come you supporters and upholders of thievery, and corruption; tell me how can the following be?
    “Elective surgery at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital (DCFH) has been suspended until further notice due to the lack of medical supplies.”(Ruby Blanc).
    You wet-fart poor boast Roosevelt Skerrit: we are the richest nation in the world we can build two International Airport: well lengthen one and build one at the same time; nevertheless, the mere essentials such as medicine to treat, help prolong you cant buy?
    How many millions went into Masquerade dance this year?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3
    • Man bite dogs
      January 15, 2024

      More crap from a Dominican idiot leaving in la la land USA cardboard city, ” Get out of here Francisco, and take your stupid so-called UWP politicians and followers with you 🙄

    • Mark
      January 16, 2024

      Francisco, elective surgery has been suspended until further notice. This is the latest problem on island with government run agencies. Why do we always seem to have those problems? The answer is simple. The lack of REVENUE. Noone wants to pay for anything and I don’t blame them because they’re able to get away with using the system. How can you successfully run a hospital without charging something for service? I am certain that when you go to the doctor or hospital in the US you have your insurance card that you paid for to pay for your services. In DA, folks expect everything to be free, free housing, free food, free building materials, free medical care. Total nonsense. It is high time we start developing the mindset of personal responsibility. That mindset makes you a tougher individual. There is no better feeling when you can stand on your own, don’t have to rely on the generousity of others or any government agency. Stop relying on government for everything.

  20. Ibo France
    January 14, 2024

    Have Roosevelt, Melissa and their children ever been treated at any one of the local hospitals? The answer is an emphatic “NO!” He has the best family health insurance. So he bypasses the premier health facility in the country and access the top of the line medical treatment and check-up overseas.

    Is Dominica the country of the blind? Can’t the majority of citizens see that Roosevelt does not even have a modicum of concern for their health.

    You can’t sow potato and get lettuce. You have planted a self-absorbed tyrant in the apex of government, you are bound to reap gloom and doom. As long as this narcissistic fellow remains at the top of the food chain in government, Dominicans will live in perpetual hardship and misery.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1
  21. Galileo
    January 14, 2024

    I read this article refused to comment and finally decided to come back to let my thoughts be known. Selfishness at a man’s core is very dangerous for he seeks only his interest to the detriment of all others. There is no greater manifestation of this here. You can no longer govern the country, please release the people. Tender your resignation in the nation’s interest. Those of you who are part of the government do the right thing. It’s not about image, it’s about national service and you all are no longer doing that. Please leave.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2
  22. January 14, 2024


  23. Lin clown
    January 14, 2024

    Typical DNO to add seasoning.Meanwhile many Dominicans have taken to social media to decry,that is coming strait from the book of DNO.There is not a hospital in the world that have not had a problem.In the mighty USA where most hospitals are privately owned,there have been problems,where SEVERAL Dominicans have died because of lack of medical care.In the Anil Roberts matter more than 8 comments have been posted.Up to today only 8 have been posted because the comments are exposing Anil Roberts as a dishonest person and ERC as an arm of UWP.DNO take pleasure in posting and adding negative comments about Skerrit,the government and Dominica.The part about Dr. Alejandro Sanz was added by DNO…………………………………………………………………………..They also took to the cleaners when I posted UWP was losing votes by the hundreds in the 2019 election.It turned out they lost 1,163 votes.CROOKED.

    ADMIN: We do not recall disputing this figure.

    We do recall correcting other factual errors or inaccuracies that you made while making this or similar statements.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 1 Thumb down 24
    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      January 15, 2024

      Man shut up, you idiot!
      Name one hospital in the universe you know operates the way this Chinese butucher shop operates!
      When a country cannot afford to buy medicine and other essentials, which are essentially, necessary to treat in even cases as emergencies, that is an indication that we are dealing with a failed state!
      Idiot, the life’s of the people of Dominica are hanging in a balance. To compare a failed state (a collapse) country to other nations with nations with vibrant economies proves how stupid, and ignorant you are!
      You and the nation should demand that Roosevelt immediately resign.
      Instead as the idiot you’re, seem to be celebrating the lack of medicine and other essentials necessary to save human lives, even your own blood life!
      When Roosevelt has the need to see his treating physician, he slips out of the country by chartered aircraft; the same applies to Melissa and his American born children, while your stupid behind and others die from bad medical conditions in…

    • We the People
      January 16, 2024

      May I remind the member that this the Parliament of DNO, please stick to the issue on the Order Paper. :mrgreen:

      I therefore urge you to confine your comments to the the memo regarding the lack of medicines at the State of the Art Hospital in Goodwill. :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

  24. Thus saith PM
    January 14, 2024

    Ladies and gentlemen, if me or my family gets sick I can air lift them within minutes. But ladies and gentlemen what about you ? Trust me these words from the mouth of PM Skerrit during the 2019 steal election campaign comes back to mind and so very sadly, Laborites clapped

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2
  25. weh
    January 14, 2024

    Welcome to the next level labour katwavay

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2
  26. Zandoli
    January 14, 2024

    A truly state of the art hospital.
    Everything this government touches is state of the art.
    No toilet paper, no before sheets, no pain killer, no spinal needles.
    Fortunately Skerrit boasted he has medical insurance to allow him to fly out for medical care.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1
  27. L C Matthew
    January 14, 2024

    state of the art. we building airport, health centers, tram, and hotels. yet, we cannot manage hospital supplies. Do.inicans can continue sitting around.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2
  28. Martin
    January 14, 2024

    A nice new building does not a hospital make. All show, no substance. This government all over.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2
  29. Ibo France
    January 14, 2024

    When a leader and his sheep-like disciples overstay their time in government they become bankrupt of ideas, overly corrupt, dictatorial and uncaring.

    A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. The mental and physical health, plus the emotional wellbeing of the citizens should always a top priority of a government. When any government allows its main health facility to falter because of lack of medical drugs, supplies and instruments, it’s time for that government to relinquish power.

    Here are the objective facts and inconvenient truth in Dominica:
    *electricity generators have passed their expiry dates
    *healthcare in crisis
    *economy on its deathbed in the ICU
    *justice system pregnant with many cases of injustice
    *middle class decimated; the disparity between the rich and the ultra poor rapidly widening
    * corruption in gov’t and the unproductive public service incredibly astounding

    You have to be an unpatriotic idiot to still support this clueless regime.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1
  30. shooter
    January 14, 2024

    Doh make joke, that not even funny :cry: ! What I hearing there nuh???????? First time I hearing hospital suspend surgery due to lack of supplies. For months they lacking supplies and it come to this? So if is emergency surgery especially during carnival season, the patient will die because of lack of supplies?????? That labour party need to leave Government. people had enough.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2
  31. January 14, 2024

    Then idiots like “Lin clown” will still come and defend this incompetent government and the failures in this country what a shame

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1
  32. dissident
    January 14, 2024

    lack of surgical supplies like Spiral needles and Anesthesia have our low grade Chinese constructed major hospital in partial lockdown mode?
    Significant efforts are being made eh
    Can CBI help Skerrit
    AM to PM CBI brings more assistance to citizens of Dominica more than any other CBI country in the world……..that’s according to Skerrit.
    A top doctor on island is de Minister of finance and de Minister of Health is a Civil Engineer……this is de dlp record for the books of our fake world boss wanna be Dr Dr …….you can’t blame UWP for dat!
    you can’t blame de wednesday walkers or de radio callers for dat!
    Where de HIFU machine nuh by de way?
    Why nobody not even Dr Blanc will mention how much lives de HIFU saving and de difference it has made in de delivery of quality medical service to tax paying Dominicans
    stop clowning around man!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
  33. dosomeresearch
    January 14, 2024

    Do we even want this drug though? there are alternatives
    How does pethidine make you feel?
    Side effects

    it can make you feel woozy, sick and forgetful. if pethidine or diamorphine are given too close to the time of delivery, they may affect the baby’s breathing – if this happens, another medicine to reverse the effect will be given. these medicines can interfere with the baby’s first feed.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8
    • KoKo
      January 20, 2024

      Good try! Some people will look for excuses for this CM till they die. HE IS NOT WORTH IT!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

:) :-D :wink: :( 8-O :lol: :-| :cry: 8) :-? :-P :-x :?: :oops: :twisted: :mrgreen: more »

 characters available