From December 1, 2017 to December 9, 2017, RMF Founder and CEO Dr. Martina Fuchs visited Puerto Rico with Edwin Rodriguez, whose family is from the island. The purpose of Dr. Fuchs’ visit was to follow up on the RMF team’s initial needs assessment; strengthen ties with local authorities, medical professionals, and organizations; and to decide the best way forward for RMF’s Hurricane Maria relief efforts.
After our initial needs assessment and this second visit, observing conditions and listening to and consulting with local professionals, government officials, and a FEMA representative on the ground, RMF is pursuing the following next steps for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico:
At the Ciales mayor’s office, we met with Luis Rosario, Special Assistant to the Mayor, who explained the hurricane’s impact and resulting needs of Ciales:
Mr. Rosario requested any aid that RMF could offer the town, and stated that storage is available for goods and medicine.
We visited the main hospital, Prymed, which serves all of Ciales. Here, we met with the administrator of the hospital, who explained the hospital’s capacity and needs:
In Vega Alta, we met with Dr. Luis Gonzalez Bermudez at the Vega Alta Clinic. Dr. Luis oversees 5 medical facilities, and he described the hurricane’s impact on medical clinics in the area:
RMF is now working closely with Dr. Luis, and we have begun supporting the operations of these 5 health clinics. Through RMF, the clinics are also receiving essential medical supplies from Direct Relief International (DRI). Once full implementation begins, RMF will strengthen the clinics’ referral system and outreach capabilities by providing a medical transport vehicle/ambulance. We also plan to support the Vega Alta Clinic by providing medications and human resources; this clinic will act as a hub for medical outreach activities.
We met with the Department of Health’s Secretary of Medical Services and Nursing Yolanda Otero, who helped connect us with more medical, NGO, and engineering contacts and described needs in several areas of Puerto Rico:
RMF met with Carmen Pérez of the Comerío mayor’s office, who explained the effects of Hurricane Maria on the municipality:
In San Juan, we were able to meet with FEMA Voluntary Liaison Jose D. Cardona, who shared insights, contacts, and overarching concerns regarding the situation in Puerto Rico:
On September 20, 2017, Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit the US territory of Puerto Rico. The winds, 155 miles per hour at landfall, completely wiped out the island’s power grid and phone towers. A flash flood emergency was declared in central Puerto Rico, and the island experienced record flooding.
Prior to the hurricane, Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was weak, and the storm left the small island crippled. Across the island, cities reported collapsed bridges and severe damage to roadways. On October 2, almost two weeks after the storm, 55% of people were still without access to drinking water, only 1 of 69 hospitals was fully operational, and 80% of the island’s crops had been destroyed. The full extent of the damage is still unclear, as most telephone and internet lines are still down. The damage has left many rural areas isolated, without access to communication or desperately needed supplies: food, water, shelter, and medical supplies.
The project is in the final planning stage. However, several hundred patients attending medical clinics in Dorado and Vega Alta have already benefitted from medicines and medical supplies provided by RMF.