Hurricane Maria’s Far-Reaching Impact to Puerto Rico’s Healthcare System

Hurricane Maria’s Far-Reaching Impact to Puerto Rico’s Healthcare System

September 30, 2017

As Puerto Rico assesses the sizeable impact of Hurricane Maria, one thing is clear: Puerto Rico’s healthcare capabilities are severely damaged. Whether it is blocked supply routes, lack of electricity or fuel, or damaged facilities, nearly every part of Puerto Rico’s healthcare system needs attention after Maria – and the health of affected patients and communities must be a top priority.

 

But in order to get Puerto Rico’s healthcare system up and running again, emergency responders and relief efforts must triage and tackle each component of the larger system. Healthcare Ready has been working hand-in-hand with public and private partners to address the diverse and distinct healthcare needs of Puerto Rico, which include:

 

  • Hospital Fuel and Supply Shortages – Puerto Rico’s hospitals are running low on fuel, electricity is intermittent or out entirely, and many medical devices and equipment – such as X-ray machines, CT scans, and surgical devices – cannot run solely on generator power. Lack of air-conditioning also puts vulnerable patients at higher risk of health complications, and supply route blockages may lead many hospitals to run out of necessary supplies and medicines. Healthcare Ready is actively working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and supply chain partners to learn and share access and re-entry requirements to expedite transportation of fuel, medicines, and supplies across Puerto Rico.

 

  • Unique Risks at Long-term Care Facilities & Nursing Homes – Long-term care facilities and nursing homes face identical challenges to hospitals, but their patients tend to be more frail and vulnerable under post-hurricane conditions. This makes sufficient fuel and supplies even more vital. Dialysis supplies, insulin, and oxygen concentrators are of particular importance for many seniors with comorbidities, and rapid evacuation is crucial for aging patients who require emergency care. Healthcare Ready is working with fuel and supply distributors, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to field and prioritize requests.

 

  • Pharmacies and Medicine Distribution – Across the island, most pharmacies remain closed without power or fuel. Healthcare Ready’s Rx Open continues to track pharmacy status across the island. While the effort to reopen pharmacies is still ongoing, direct supply and donations of emergency medicines to shelters and vulnerable communities is now a top priority. Healthcare Ready is also coordinating with relief agencies to direct donations for medicines and supplies to facilities and shelters, as well as fielding individual requests for medicine assistance.

 

As Puerto Rico’s residents recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, their health must remain a top priority. But that requires a functioning healthcare system. Healthcare Ready remains activated with our public and private partners to assist victims of Hurricane Maria and to support Puerto Rico’s healthcare system capabilities.

 

Nicolette Louissaint, Ph.D.

Dr. Nicolette A. Louissaint serves as the Executive Director of Healthcare Ready. Prior to this position, Nicolette served as the organization's Director of Programming. Before joining Healthcare Ready Nicolette served as a Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. During the height of the Ebola Epidemic of 2014, Nicolette served as the Senior Advisor to the State Department’s Special Coordinator for Ebola.