From the Field: Dr. Hernando Garzon, Puerto Rico Hurricane Response Team
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Dr. Hernando Garzon updates on the situation in Puerto Rico, where International Medical Corps has a team, and is partnering with the Puerto Rico Primary Health Association, a network of 62 health clinics focused on providing care to low-income families across the island.
Power outages continue to make it difficult to operate health facilities, with many clinics resorting to limiting the hours they are open or providing care in smaller spaces that can be powered by a generator. Maintaining a cold chain for many urgently needed medications, especially those for chronic care, has been a challenge.
International Medical Corps is providing logistical support to help urban and rural clinics across the island get back to caring for patients. This includes providing generators to clinics and San Juan-area hospitals that would otherwise have severely limited or no operating capacity. We are also working with a partner organization to restore internet and communications capabilities for the Puerto Rico Primary Health Association and distributing solar lights to clinics. Our team is also looking at how we can support the supply of medications across the island, especially those that require cold storage and transport.
As immediate relief efforts begin shift into recovery, International Medical Corps will support the longer-term needs of health facilities with infrastructure repairs and other assistance. With homes destroyed and access to savings limited by power supplies and other storm-related issues, families—particularly low-income families—are struggling to meet immediate needs, including buying medication for short-term use or chronic care. We will work with facilities to offer patient subsidies for some medications to help so families meet their ongoing health needs.
All health care facility staff were impacted directly by Hurricane Maria, including many who lost their own homes. International Medical Corps will also work with the health facilities to provide much-needed relief to health care and other facility staff so they are able to return to work caring for Puerto Ricans. We are also preparing to distribute hygiene kits to clinics so families have basic necessities that help prevent the spread of communicable disease.
“This is the first time where I’ve seen such wall-to-wall, corner-to-corner, 100 percent population affected. So many people are reliant on a health care delivery chain that’s been interrupted. That chain relies on power and fuel to move goods and meds to places where the patients can access them. The clinics where they might normally receive care in, likewise, need to be up and running.” – Dr. Robert Fuller, Puerto Rico Emergency Response Team Member
19 Oct 2017