I fit in with an organization known as Doctors for Puerto Rico.
We’ve been dispatching medicine and small groups of medical staff towards the island, in coordination with local health government bodies since two-and-a-half days after Hurricane Maria. Whenever we began, we weren’t sure what sort of assistance would perform the most good among a scenario threatening to become humanitarian disaster.
Delivering doctors, nurses and emergency responders? Delivering medical supplies? Evacuating patients? Evacuating medical and student nurses to Florida to allow them to continue their studies?
A couple of us visited to discover.
To obtain began, I traveled to Puerto Rico at the begining of October with Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon, a friend in the College of Florida, where Sometimes like a doctor and educate doctors in training.
Whenever we arrived in San Juan, everything in the airport terminal appeared eerily normal. The lights were working. The bathrooms were neat and had flowing water. The businesses were open and blasting bachata music.
We stopped at someone to purchase a 4-feet-lengthy Puerto Rican flag, getting little difficulty having to pay having a charge card.
The writer, proven here with Elimarys Perez Colon and pharmacy staff from Hospital Menonita, holding a Puerto Rican flag that is representative of dedication to aid a healthcare facility in Caguas. Asa Oxner Myers
But when we left the Southwest Airlines terminal, we passed within dripping roof and also the entrance with other terminals which were closed, dark and empty. This experience covers what’s happening there generally. Puerto Ricans’ spirits are showing through because they work hard to go back to normal, but you could do only in small pockets to date.
Driving around San Juan was nearly the same as staying at the airport terminal. Some areas were running on generators coupled with strong 4G cell phone signals. Other locations were abandoned, with considerably broken structures and downed utility lines. Outdoors the town, trees were barren and rivers engorged.
Our phones eliminate about 10 miles outdoors the town. They never labored elsewhere once we spent a few days visiting hospitals, clinics and shelters over the central mountainous parts of Caguas, Villalba and Juana Diaz.
We rested within the homes of my colleague’s relatives, getting around which are more fundamental reasons. We’d shower in her own aunt’s house simply because they had water, then leave once the water stopped running.
Downed utility lines such as this one really are a common sight throughout Puerto Rico days after Hurricane Maria. Asa O. Myers, CC BY-SA
Generally, aid it’s advocated that individuals who wish to assist with disaster recovery make financial donations instead of ship clothing, food or any other goods.
However in Puerto Rico’s situation, my aid group has determined that there’s additionally a obvious requirement for universities, hospitals along with other centers of expert knowledge to assist. Relief efforts going ahead – such as the assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and also the Red Mix – aren’t meeting the island’s needs for technical personnel.
According to what we should learned and just how we’re lending a hands, here are a few suggestions for those who either wish to send help to Puerto Rico or visit themselves:
1. Realize that you could really make a difference.
Whenever we reached remote regions of Puerto Rico, i was glad we overlooked excuses like “it’s an island” or “they were in bad shape prior to the hurricane.”
The medical director of Hospital Menonita, a 400-bed referral hospital within the capital of scotland- Caguas, told us that people were the very first group to create supplies and help to their hospital. I was shocked to understand this, once we showed up 17 days after Hurricane Maria.
My aid group is delivering this hospital bronchial asthma drugs, intravenous antibiotics along with other supplies, based by itself updated inventory information. By early November, everything we’ve sent makes it there – 4,000 pounds as a whole.
We’re also delivering prescription medications to smaller sized hospitals within the towns of Villalba and Juana Diaz. Grants in the Hope and Health Foundation, Tampa General Hospital, College of Florida and many private foundations around Tampa Bay have given the roughly US$100,000 in funds and medical supplies with this project. Jabil, a clinical supply company, is supplying logistical support like flights and shipping.
Yes, we must ship these supplies on plane or cargo barge rather of driving the stuff there. But our effort implies that it is possible.
Staff at Hospital Menonita in Caguas, with 700 pounds of prescription medications along with other medications shipped included in this ongoing relief effort. Elimarys Perez-Colon, CC BY-SA
2. Use the locals
We initially believed that we’re able to assist the most by delivering a large number of nurses and doctors to help out.
But we experienced highly qualified medical staff in each and every hospital and clinic we visited. Whenever we recognized the pharmacists could easily provide us with a listing of the very most depleted medications or supplies, we altered our plans.
Empty medication storage bins in the hospital within the capital of scotland- Caguas, Puerto Rico. Asa O. Myers, CC BY-SA
That made us shelve our intends to offer medical students an chance to temporarily transfer to the school of medicine.
We requested local medical officials in the Puerto Rican Department of Health the way we may help.
Have there been any underserved places that visiting doctors could fill gaps? Wouldn’t it help when we checked around the spread of infectious illnesses?
We provided to send doctors from your team in Florida to alleviate some Puerto Rican doctors who was simply working nonstop.
Only then do we met with staff in the Villalba mayor’s office and police pressure. They reviewed paper documents for each house within the district of 25,000 people, searching for kids, seniors and sick people and individuals with disabilities.
We left their office having a detailed medical wish list. Their email list incorporated formula for newborns, nebulizer machines for asthmatics and insulin for diabetics. There have been also demands for visiting doctors to look at bed-bound patients.
Along with the command center’s nurse, we drove round the mountainside town to accomplish their list, making the effort to complete medical exams in shelters and houses once we made our models.
A vulnerable patient getting a medical visit in her own home and a few water that is clean and supplies. Elimarys Perez Colon
3. Avoid ‘disaster tourism’
I was conscious that everybody who travels to Puerto Rico nowadays is contributing to strains around the limited resources of water, food and. Before Hurricane Maria, a lot of the island’s food originated from the U.S. landmass or was imported.
That’s the reason 3 people continued the first assessment. It’s also the explanation we’re following once we concentrate on delivering targeted medical supplies and small, mobile teams from Florida who join using the local medical staff to increase their achieve into rural areas.
We feel that individuals who intend to visit their relatives in Puerto Rico or travel there to supply aid of any sort should plan their journeys in advance and also have an very obvious purpose with this travel. They may also have a couple of common-sense safeguards to be truly assisting.
For instance, they are able to secure lodging ahead of time, possibly within the homes from the locals. It’s best to not rely on hotels at this time because most of them are housing Puerto Ricans who lost their houses.
Because water that is clean is an issue and supermarkets are rationing it, it’s essential for people to bring their very own water filters and a few canned water too. This can make sure that it normally won’t hog canned water in their hosts’ homes.
Finally, it’s important to reserve your return flight prior to going.
Otherwise, you can find yourself stuck there for days because of the exodus of locals who’re departing for brief-term stints or rebuilding their endures the landmass.
Doctors for Puerto Rico intends to continue to utilize the Puerto Rican Department of Health to recuperate the sector not less than another six several weeks. We’re remaining in Florida but answering demands for the aid of the island’s vulnerable patients and medical service providers.