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Hospital systems rush in to help Puerto Rico, wildfire-stricken California

A New York hospital volunteer team is heading to Puerto Rico to treat patients while Sutter Health donates to wildfire relief after closing hospital.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Satellite image of California wildfires from NOAA of hot spots glowing red from the thermal imagery from Oct. 9. Credit: <a href=“” target=“_blank”>NOAA</a>Satellite image of California wildfires from NOAA of hot spots glowing red from the thermal imagery from Oct. 9. Credit: NOAA

As part of a medical mission initiated by New York Governor Cuomo and coordinated by the Greater New York Hospital Association and the state Department of Health, a team of 78 medical professionals including 27 Northwell volunteers as well as staff from Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York- Presbyterian, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in Manhattan, and Albany Medical Center have deployed to Puerto Rico, where they will be working to alleviate the humanitarian crisis triggered when Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean and decimated the island.

Northwell's volunteers are nurses, physicians, medics, EMTs and other clinicians, as well as administrators to help out with the medical mission. The system is also donating $750,000 toward the effort, and shipping 60,000 pounds of supplies and personal hygiene products that were donated by the health system's employees, the system said in a statement.

[Also: Wildfires close down Northern California Kaiser Permanente, Sutter hospitals, medical facilities]

Supplies range from cases of water to baby formula, diapers, batteries, toothpaste and cleaning supplies. They will be transported on a container ship to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands where they will be distributed by MedShare, a humanitarian organization that Northwell Health has partnered with before. 

Team leader Randy Howard said the volunteers will likely be asked to provide medical support at a federal medical station in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, located on the island's northern coast.  These facilities have been set up all over the island and are designed to care for up to 250 patients at a time.

[Also: Kaiser Permanente pledges $1 million for Puerto Rico relief efforts]

"We will be asked to deal with everything from scrapes and bruises to the most acute care that is called for," said Mr. Howard, who served as a lieutenant colonel in the US Army before retiring from the military. "While we don't know exactly where we will be stationed, we will be prepared."

On the opposite coast, as apocalyptic wildfires plow through Northern California communities in at least seven counties, Sutter Health has announced a $250,000 donation to the American Red Cross California Wildfires Fund to support fire relief efforts there.

Sutter Health was forced to evacuate dozens of patients and close their major hospital in Santa Rosa earlier this week, and numerous other medical facilities within the system have also been shuttered until further notice.

Sutter Health has also donated gauze and saline to evacuation centers in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, and have re-opening high-risk obstetrics clinics in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol to support vulnerable patients.

The system said at least 37 employees and doctors have lost their homes in the wildfires and the system is supporting efforts to help them including financial aid, disaster recovery pay, prescription assistance, and other employee assistance support ranging from insurance claims help to mental health resources.

In fact, Sutter Health has created a new philanthropic fund to support those employees called Sutter Health Employee Disaster Relief Fund that is open to monetary donations from employees and the community. 

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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