Nearly two years after Maria, philanthropy still flows to Puerto Rico

Source(s): Direct Relief

More than $100 million in assistance reaches nonprofits on the island still working to recover from Maria.

By Tony Morain

Twenty-five Puerto Rican healthcare nonprofits are set to receive a much-needed $8 million cash infusion from Direct Relief, the largest private, nongovernmental provider of health resources to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria.

Recipients of the $8 million in grants will be announced on Wednesday, August 7, at La Ciudad de la Salud y Bienestar, a Direct Relief-sponsored event in San Juan that brings together healthcare leaders, local nonprofits and businesses to identify challenges following Hurricane Maria and reaffirm a shared commitment to improving health for people in Puerto Rico.

The event includes a health fair comprised of more than 20 healthcare providers offering a variety of medical services, free of charge, for up to 3,000 people.

The $8 million in funding from Direct Relief follows contributions of more than $73.6 million in requested medical materials and $18.7 million in cash for a range of initiatives aimed at bolstering Puerto Rico’s health sector in the wake of Hurricane Maria, including:

Powering health, medical refrigeration

For months after Maria, health facilities across Puerto Rico lacked reliable power. No electricity meant no refrigeration for temperature-sensitive vaccines or insulin, no electrical-powered medical equipment, and, in many cases, no running water. A lack of power meant a lack of health services.

In response, Direct Relief is equipping Puerto Rico’s health centers, clinics and community facilities with more than 1 megawatt of solar production capacity and 1.7 megawatts of battery storage.

Direct Relief has also furnished 89 health centers across the island with 164 FDA-compliant pharmaceutical and laboratory refrigerators and freezers with enough capacity to store roughly 6 million vials of vaccines.

Extending care through telehealth, mobile medical services

With physicians leaving Puerto Rico in recent years for the continental U.S., the island’s health centers and clinics, particularly those in rural communities, are experiencing severe staffing shortfalls.

Direct Relief is addressing the issue by establishing telehealth programs at health facilities in underserved areas. Direct Relief is also enabling health service delivery in remote communities through the procurement of 30 mobile medical units and patient transport vehicles for health centers and clinics.

Disaster communications, strategic pre-positioning, equipping responders

Twelve health facilities across Puerto Rico received pre-packed modules of emergency medical supplies from Direct Relief in advance of the 2018 and 2019 hurricane seasons. Items include a range of medications for wound care, chronic diseases and mental health conditions.

To facilitate communications during a disaster, Direct Relief is providing more than 140 long-range radios to health centers, ensuring their ability to communicate across local and island-wide channels during a communication outage.

Direct Relief has also equipped each member of Puerto Rico’s Medical Reserve Corps with an Emergency Medical Backpack for triage medical outreach activities during emergencies. The ruggedized, U.S. Surgeon General-approved packs hold disaster-specific supplies and equipment, including items for infection control, diagnostics and trauma care.

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