HEALTH CRISIS IN PUERTO RICO AND THE CARIBBEAN!

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Due to back-to-back hurricanes, a health care crisis has emerged. Some nursing and medical personnel from the US have arrived—many of them volunteers who can only stay for a limited time—but the critical condition of the health care system in Puerto Rico pre-hurricane has only been exacerbated severely by the storms. As we get more information about the Virgin Islands, we can assess the situation there, which we suspect is also in a grave state.

NURSES RESPOND—with the New York Recovery Network (NYRN)

Project NYSNA nurses, RN Response Network (RNRN), AFYA Foundation, AFL-CIO, and others have responded to the call sent out asking for volunteers to assist in medical recovery efforts, with nearly 300 people offering their services. The state of New York has been instrumental in facilitating these efforts. We are fortunate to be able to collaborate with the General Union of Workers (UGT)/1199, the organization which represents thousands of health care and public service workers on the island.

GRASS ROOTS EFFORTS

We have also been able to work with the Teachers Federation (FMPR), Comedores Sociales (a community-based soup kitchen), and other grassroots groups providing community services.

OUR LOCAL UNION SPONSORS

UGT/1199 In coordination with UGT, our official sponsors in health care on the island, we have identified several regions in which we can set up community clinics and door-to-door teams in hard hit areas. We have put together a collaborative proposal to staff 5 regions with nurses and providers for 7-10 day assignments on an ongoing basis, depending on the resources we gather.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

This ambitious effort requires coordination with our volunteers and their employers and it requires the capacity of UGT to provide locations and support. Funds are also needed—to pay for airfare, ground transportation, medical supplies, and miscellany.

YOUR DONATIONS!

While this project is just beginning, we do not yet have the capacity to care for all those neither in Puerto Rico nor in the Virgin Islands who need our help. Your donations will not only fund our beginning model projects, but will allow us to expand into these other areas.

PLEASE BE GENEROUS AND SUPPORT THIS MEDICAL SOLIDARITY MISSION TO EASE THE INTENSE SUFFERING OF OUR NEIGHBORS!

Click here to make a DONATION

BACKGROUND

The devastation caused by the extreme weather events over the past few years has been overwhelming, but these two category IV & V hurricanes caused unprecedented damage in the region. While the communities in Texas and Florida are still struggling with the after effects of hurricanes, the situation in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and remains dire.

UNIMAGINABLE CONDITIONS

Puerto Rico—the only nation suffering from the additional restrictions of the US-imposed Jones Act (preventing any international aid from arriving directly to the country)—is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the nation’s history. It is reported that 100,000 inhabitants have already fled the island. At least 80% of Puerto Rican homes remain without electricity and many have no water or water that is severely limited, and is not potable in most cases. There are almost no functioning traffic lights. Hunger is present as many remain without income. Critical tools and equipment are in short supply or disappear quickly.

TOGETHER, WE CAN REBUILD!

Were it not for the volunteer efforts of the people of Puerto Rico, as well as trade unions, non-profit and religious organizations, communities and members of the Diaspora, the situation would be unimaginable. It is only the resilience of those affected and the solidarity among all peoples that makes survival a possibility.

And now, your donations as well!

 

Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN

President New York State Nurses Association

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(Photo U.S. Virgin Islands: New York Times)

Reporting Back from Philippines Medical Mission

By Maria Sol Del Castillo, RN, Alpha Acapulco, RN, MSN, & Heather McCartney, RN

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We are so blessed we’re able to join NYSNA’s (New York State Nurses Association) delegation to the medical mission to the Philippines. This is our first time to join NYSNA medical mission and it was very fulfilling and heart-warming. It was bittersweet to be helping with the recovery from Typhoon Haiyan from all the way around the world, while back home we were reading reports of the devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and soon from Hurricane Jose! We were not active NYSNA members but after this experience, we see the value of participating with NYSNA activities as a group of nurses because together we can help not just our patients here in New York but also poor people on the other side of the world. This is why we thought it was important to give our report of good work to our colleagues in Mt. Sinai with the hope that nurses and caregivers respond to the call of duty in helping the victims of these hurricanes over the next several months.

We are 14 NY nurses & 1 respiratory therapist, 2 CA nurses and a physical therapist together with 5 physicians and a dentist conducted a medical, surgical and dental medical mission serving over 600 people in 21 barangays (villages) in Basey, Samar on September 9, 2017. The mission was sponsored by Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) and Health Empowerment in Action for Leyte and Samar (HEALS) in partnership with NYSNA and Filipino American Health Workers Association (FAHWA).

The first day our delegation went to the Philippine Orthopedic Center. The local union president Sean Herbert Velchez explained the situation of nurses and patients in the hospital and how they were able to conduct a successful campaign to stop the privatization of their hospital. What was really notable about how they provide care was despite government’s budget cuts to privatize the hospital, nurses and caregivers took care the poorest patients of the poor. In turn, their patients, their families and the people of the community within the neighborhoods near the hospital joined their “sit down strikes” – a creative collective action wherein nurses will do sit-downs during lunch time. They gained popular support that forced the government to junk the plan to privatize their hospital.

The second day we went to Philippine General Hospital where we discovered that hallway patients are a problem in the Philippines, the cause of this phenomenon is lack of staffing and some of the tactics they’ve used to fight back are petition signing, rallies and lobbying of their members in the Philippine Congress. We also visited the National Center for Mental Health were we discovered that their staffing can go as high as 1 RN to 200 psychiatric patients! We felt that the patients’ conditions are inhumane and the hospital looks like a big compound of prisons. The wards are crowded especially the male ward.

Day three we flew to Tacloban and Day Four we visited Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC), the only tertiary level hospital in the Eastern Visayas region serving several islands. What’s interesting is that their situation is better than the hospitals we visited in Manila. Then from Tacloban, Leyte we crossed the famous San Juanico Bridge to Municipality of Basey, Samar Island. We were oriented by the community and they greeted us with children’s cultural performances they prepared for us. The next day we conducted our medical mission! Here are some highlights:

– A mother with her baby walked for 3 hours just to get to the boat to take them to the medical mission site.
– So many respiratory cases and we’re glad Respiratory Therapist Dean Soto, DC37 (District Council 37 union) member, joined us in our mission. He provided treatment to them including the 2 female who are experiencing shortness of breath and asthma attack.
– Served more than 560 medical patients
– Conducted 50 dental procedures. Thanks to EVRMC for providing the dental bus.
– Conducted 6 minor surgeries. A makeshift OR in the Barangay hall was prepared and we had to use the flashlights on our phones as overhead lights.

Throughout the trip the one thing that has been proven to us that nurses and other caregivers, regardless of where they practice, are true heroes of our times.  We look forward to continuing to be of service and to participate in future medical missions where they will be so badly needed in places like the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast, and Mexico.

Thank you to all who supported the Philippines medical mission including those who donated to get Maria Sol’s special cookies. Your heartfelt generosity and kind support made the mission possible!

My First Medical Mission

By Dora Acevedo, RN, NP

I went to the Philippines because I have always wanted to do a medical mission and this was the opportunity I was given to help.

I traveled with a total of 17 people including myself: 10 NYSNA members & 1 staff, 1 respiratory therapist( a DC37 member), 2 FAHWA RN members and 1 physical therapist from CA and 1 nursing student. I was there for 10 days.

I have never traveled to the Philippines before. I chose this country because it was the first mission I saw through NYSNA. I also have had many coworkers who are from the Philippines so I was slightly familiar with the culture, but not of the health situation there.

This is my first medical mission. We left New York on September 3, arrived in Manila on September 4. September 5 was the actual start of the program. We had an orientation at the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) office and then we did a walk through at the Philippine Orthopedic Center. The next day, we visited the Philippine General Hospital and the National Mental Health Institute. On September 7th, we flew to Tacloban City. The next day, we visited the barangay (village) in Basey, Samar where we will be holding the medical mission and had an orientation at the house of the barangay captain. September 9th was the actual day of the medical mission.

The high point of the trip was on the day of the actual mission. We worked great as a team, putting our heads together to solve barriers we encountered. It was so rewarding to see when we helped people who would probably not receive any help because of their situation.

One of the challenges I encountered is the lack of medicine and supplies to help. At points I felt helpless because things I took for granted in my practice I simply did not have. But we managed inspite of this and gave the best care we could give.

A typical day in our mission … is we would meet early in the morning. On some days we visited various hospitals and met with different union workers. There we learned that there is not only a tremendous disparity in health care with the poor but also harsh working conditions for the RNs with very little pay. Yet we learned that they truly love their profession and try their best with what they are given to give the best care they can. On the day of the mission we went to the village and organized by giving job duties and setting up stations. It was a long day but very rewarding.

Now that I am back I will be preparing for the next mission by reading on medications used in the Philippines and getting more equipment. Hopefully we return to the Philippines and I will be better prepared. I have already started trying to learn Tagalog (the national language in the country) and next I will try to learn Waray, the Local language spoken in Samar Island where we held the medical mission. I will also be on the lookout for any other medical missions that NYSNA may have.

If you are planning on going on a medical mission my advice is to learn about the customs and culture you will be going to which can have an impact on the health of your patient. For example in the rural areas of the Philippines they cook with coal and wood. This exposes them constantly to smoke inhalation which causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma symptoms and they can easily become burn victims as well.
(Dora Acevedo is a 27-year registered nurse currently working at NYC Health and Hospitals Jacobi in The Bronx NY. Dora became a FAHWA member after the medical mission.)

S.O.S Puerto Rico

New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) in partnership with Union General de Trabajadores, UGT (Healthcare Union in Puerto Rico) and FAHWA appeals to all peoples of the world to help the people of Puerto Rico who’s facing a humanitarian crisis right now. The fundraising drive will help fund the Centro Operacion Solidarias (Center of Operations and Solidarity) that will provide free medical care, free use of mobile phones or satellite phones to contact families, provide assistance to unemployed workers, educate the community on hygiene and water filtration, and send nurses and doctors to Puerto Rico. Please click DONATE now. To make a tax-deductible donation, please write “SOS Puerto Rico” on the note section.

If you’re a registered nurse, a medical doctor, a pharmacist, respiratory therapist or a healthcare worker and willing and able to volunteer, please click here to volunteer to join NYSNA’s medical team.

You can also pledge donations here by using this pledge form and we will send you an email. Donations are secured, and tax-deductible to the extent of the law if requested.

Our recovery as a people after super typhoon Haiyan, though slow and painful, was made possible because of the support we have received from the peoples of the world including from our sisters and brothers from Puerto Rico. This time it is our turn to give back. 

Join FAHWA Today!

Anyone who adhere’s to the mission of the Filipino American Health Workers Association (FAHWA) may join the association. Whether you are born in the U.S. or the Philippines, or whether you consider yourself a Filipino or not, but you adhere to FAHWA’s mission you qualify to become a member of FAHWA.

No membership dues is required for 6 months. However, avery member is expected to help in the association’s fundraising efforts to fund FAHWA’s medical missions and activities.

To apply, please submit your full name, email, address and phone number to fahwa1963@gmail.com or complete the FAHWA Membership Form here.

S.O.S. for Puerto Rico

The Filipino American Health Workers Association is a non-profit membership organization. The Migrant Center of the St Francis of Assisi Church serves as FAHWA’s fiscal sponsor. To make a tax-deductible donation, please write on the memo line “NYSNA/SOS Puerto Rico” on FAHWA’s PayPalMe or write a check payable to Filipino American Health Workers Association and write on the memo line “NYSNA/SOS Puerto Rico.” You will receive an email receipt. To make a donation online now, click HERE. If you prefer to write a check, please mail the check to:

Filipino American Health Workers Association c/o NYSNA, Chito Quijano
131 West 33rd Street 4th Floor
New York, NY 10001