Stories of our connected and rapidly changing region.


In One Puerto Rican Mountain Town, Health Care Volunteers Frustrated By Logistics

Blanca Ortiz-Torres is a psychologist and a professor at the University of Puerto Rico. She came with a team of doctors, nurses, and psychologists to Maricao to provide medical care to refugees displaced by the hurricane.
Photo by Ryan Caron King for WNPR

Blanca Ortiz-Torres was sitting in a Puerto Rican oasis. She was at a working bakery in the tiny mountain town of Maricao that had both a generator and a cistern and, as a result, could serve cold drinks, hot coffee, fresh pastries, and pizza.

But she wasn’t happy about it. She and a volunteer team of doctors, nurses, and psychologists didn’t travel three hours from San Juan to one of the smallest towns on the island to have a snack. They came to assess residents left homeless after Maria. But, when they arrived, the Puerto Rican health official in charge told them that only a handful of the expected refugees had been brought to the shelter.

So, Ortiz-Torres and the team went across the street to kill time, have coffee, and vent.

“What you’re just seeing is part of what has been the greatest weakness in this whole process. Lack of logistics and coordination,” she said. “It’s like wasting time and resources. We could be helping people. But that has been since day one what we have been facing in Puerto Rico.”

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