Nashua doctors heading to Puerto Rico on relief trip

Sunday News Correspondent
November 18. 2017 11:30PM

Ryder Hospital in Humacao, Puerto Rico, sustained significant damage by Hurricane Maria, including the rest of its community. A team of four medical and clinical leaders from Southern New Hampshire Health are headed to the hospital to provide assistance. (COURTESY)

NASHUA — With her family still struggling in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, a local doctor is spearheading a relief trip to assist a hospital that was severely damaged by the storm.

Dr. Melissa Martinez-Adorno and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center are teaming up to collect essential medical supplies and monetary donations in preparation for the Dec. 15 trip to Ryder Hospital in Humacao, Puerto Rico.

“The hospital was completely destroyed. It is going to need all the help it can get,” said Martinez-Adorno.

Although the medical facility is still operating with use of a generator, it can only admit about 10 to 15 patients, she said, adding the roof has been compromised and the building has experienced significant flooding.

About 25 employees at the hospital lost everything they own, including their homes, said Martinez-Adorno, who has an uncle and other relatives who live in the San Juan area.

The hospital was forced to close its intensive care unit and its cardiac floor, she said, adding the facility is basically working triage from a field hospital.

She is hopeful that a community-to-community relief effort, along with a new fundraising initiative, will provide Southern New Hampshire Health with enough funds to offer not only basic medical needs to the hospital in Puerto Rico, but also more long-term assistance.

The Nashua hospital has agreed to match all of the contributions up to $25,000.

Typically, Ryder Hospital serves more than 27,000 patients throughout its five-story facility and emergency department.

Now it is using generators and tents to provide medical and surgical care to patients from the community of about 58,000 residents.

From Dec. 15 through Dec. 17, four medical and clinical leaders from Southern New Hampshire Health will deliver supplies and tour the facility in Puerto Rico to identify additional needs and opportunities to support the hospital, patients and employees.

“Houston and Florida will recover, but you look at the Caribbean and you wonder what will happen. It will take time,” said Dr. Rob Dorf, chief medical officer with Southern New Hampshire Health who will be traveling to Puerto Rico next month.

Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that made landfall in the south=east corner of the island on Sept. 20, has completely devastated Puerto Rico’s basic existence, according to Dorf.

“The health care infrastructure in Puerto Rico is not as proficient. Since (the hurricane) it has become an absolute crisis. Some people cannot get care at all,” he said. “It saddens me to see this kind of thing unfold.”

He fears what will happen as time progresses and the media and the rest of the country forget about the island that is still struggling to restore electricity and provide easy access to potable water.

“We know that this recovery effort is going to be long-term, and measured in months and years,” said Mike Rose, CEO of Southern New Hampshire Health. “We will continue to assist as much as we can for as long as needed.”

He said public donations are welcome, and employees and medical staff are being encouraged to help raise funds as well.

“That is part of the culture of our organization,” Rose said, adding the healthcare field has a mission and a desire to help people, including those outside of their own coverage area in the midst of disasters.

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