Hurricane Maria and its devastating conditions continue to affect Puerto Ricans. Treatment centers have faced structural damage and those still struggling to stay open are still at a loss of diesel supply to run their generators, cutting hours by 25%. Medical supplies are also low. In addition, the number of medical employees reporting to work have been cut in half since the storm.
Given the island’s critical state, the federal government has sent 10 Disaster Medical Assistant Teams. Mobile hospitals have been established in hospital parking lots and other hospitals are set to open in the badly wrecked Humacao.
Despite efforts to restore medical facilities’ generators, the number of ill patients continue to rise. In the past six days, 82 patients have been sent to the Comfort, a medical treatment ship on the scene that can serve 250.
In the northeast past of the island, the mayor of Canóvanas has reported several deaths due to leptospirosis, a bacteria disease that is believed to have been caught from the floodwaters. The Puerto Rico Department of Health have advised citizens to drink bottled water and wear protective footwear near bodies of water that might be polluted by animal urine. 85% of the island inhabitants still are at a loss of water and are bathing in streams. While Puerto Rico faces a few dozen cases of leptospirosis a year, the number of deaths from the bacteria disease is expected to increase.
Mr. Bastardo, who spent hours in the floodwaters trying to escape his home in Canóvanas, has been in and out of medical facilities after he told his wife, Yarelis Rosa, his head, feet, and knees hurt. His temperature had risen to 106 degrees. Bastardo, who had cut himself a few days before the hurricane hit, faced infection. Rosa described the scrambling doctors:
Nervous? It looked like a war zone, where you have to evacuate to save your life…The politicians say that everything is fine, because they have nice places to live. Why didn’t they bring Donald Trump here?
At Hima Hospital in Caguas, a city of more than 100,000 south of San Juan, doctors deployed by the federal government have been aiding patients under an air-conditioned tent in the parking lot. Other teams have been unable to see patients and have reported feeling powerless. Administrator of Hima Hospital, Maria Jacoba reported: “The whole island is critical, especially for oxygen.
Luz Alverio has been with his 72-year old sister at the mobile hospital on Sunday. Her legs are discolored and swollen from infected insect bites. Alverio stated: “People didn’t die in the winds…They are dying now.”
Those 6,000 dialysis patients are facing even more critical conditions as the severe fuel shortage has left dialysis centers cleaning patients’ blood only 9 hours a day instead of 12.
At a chain of dialysis centers, Medical Director of Fresenius Medical Care North America, Lisandro Montalvo said:
At one point, the government said the dialysis situation was controlled and the facilities were getting diesel…But they maybe supplied diesel to three or four facilities, and we have 26 facilities. We talk to FEMA every day. It’s always an emergency. We have to say: ‘These three are low, please.’ Sometimes they fill it, and sometimes they don’t.
Mr. Cruz, who sought dialysis treatment at a different location, reported that three days after the storm, centers were closed, leaving patients gathered in hospitals and only receiving half of their prescribed treatments. Cruz witnessed a woman’s death during dialysis and rather than waiting to find a spot in the line, decided to move to Florida. Cruz stated:
They are cutting my life short…The governor can’t be everywhere at once. If his aides tell him everything is great, he thinks everything is great.’
On Monday, Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Roselló said 70% of the island’s pharmacies are now open and there is an established hotline for people to receive insulin. Still, several patients have been sent to the United States.
Restoring power is the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s number one priority as they make certain at least one hospital is fit to treat patients in each of the country’s regions. Chief executive, Ricardo Romas reported:
I would love to have all the hospitals energized, but it’s impossible to do that. There are hospitals in the mountainside, there’s hospitals in the southeast, where my infrastructure is completely destroyed.
The assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Robert P. Kadlec described the devastation as “equivalent to a nuclear detonation.” He went on to say:
Whatever you do, will be almost insufficient to the demand and need that is out there for these 3.5 million Americans in Puerto Rico…