October 2, 2017
HHS broadens support to shore up health care facilities impacted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
To further aid health care facilities in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has implemented a three-tiered strategy as part of the Trump Administration’s ongoing relief efforts.
“The Surgeon General and I met today with Puerto Rico Health Secretary Dr. Rafael Rodríguez Mercado and Secretary of Housing Fernando Gil Enseñat to discuss current and long-term health concerns. Most medical facilities are functioning on generator power so there is an immediate need to shore up the medical infrastructure,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D. “We will be working together to ensure health and medical care for the people of Puerto Rico, and HHS will be there for as long as we are needed.”
HHS medical experts assisted the Department of Health in Puerto Rico in reaching all of the hospitals on the island and found that all but two of the medical facilities were operational in some capacity.
As the first tier of the strategy, HHS deployed medical teams with their own equipment and medical supplies to assist in providing care at Centro Medico, an emergency and trauma center in San Juan.
As the second tier, HHS dispatched medical teams and set up temporary medical sites to augment five additional hospitals, one in each region of the territory. These sites are:
- Hospital Pavia Yauco in Yauco, Puerto Rico;
- Hospital Metropolitano in Arecibo;
- Hospital General Menonita Caguas (antes-San Juan Bautista Medical Center), in Caguas;
- Hospital De La Concepcion, in San German; and,
- Hima San Pablo Fajardo in Fajardo.
With the third tier, HHS placed a liaison in each of the other open hospitals to stay abreast of the supply and fuel needs. These liaisons, provided by the Department of Defense, ensure federal and territory agencies prioritize supply and fuel needs to keep the hospitals functioning to the extent possible.
With a physical presence in each hospital, the liaisons also can alert federal and territory officials immediately if a hospital generator fails and the hospital needs to evacuate patients to other hospitals.
HHS medical teams from the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) and U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps have seen more than 330 patients since they began augmenting local facilities September 25.
To provide additional surge capacity if needed, the Department of Defense hospital ship USNS COMFORT is on its way to Puerto Rico. The ship offers the full range of medical care with surgical, obstetric and pediatric capability and is equivalent to a level-two trauma center in the United States. The ship is staffed by more than 500 medical personnel and support staff and holds 250 hospital beds.
HHS also is deploying five federal medical stations from the Strategic National Stockpile to serve as shelters for people with special medical needs at any location designated by the Puerto Rico Department of Health. Each federal medical station provides up to 250 beds and is staffed by NDMS members, PHS officers and personnel from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
HHS medical personnel are accompanying Urban Search and Rescue in previously unreached areas of the island to triage residents found and, if needed, arrange transport for medical care. To date, residents have needed water for dehydration and basic first aid care.
In addition to medical care, HHS continues to provide behavioral health support through the Disaster Distress Helpline. Residents can call 1-800-985-5990 toll free or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. So far, the line has received more than 6,275 calls in areas impacted by hurricanes this year.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with companies impacted by the hurricane to prevent critical shortages of medical products in Puerto Rico. There are currently no drug shortages resulting directly from the impact of the storms. This information continues to evolve as companies assess the hurricane damage to Puerto Rico. The FDA, with federal partners, is coordinating with healthcare service companies working to ensure that Puerto Ricans have access to medical products.
Health care organizations interested in offering bulk medical supplies/treatment personnel, please visit: https://voad.communityos.org/volunteer-registration-pr-irma
Information on health, safety and HHS actions are available at www.phe.gov/emergency. Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/psa/index.html. Residents in the continental United States are encouraged to provide these tips to family members and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Updates and health information also are available at: