Hurricane Medical Relief in Cuba

by Global Links
Vetted
Repairs continue in Santiago
Repairs continue in Santiago

“The Health Care Worker Kits you sent us were invaluable,” said the Provincial Vice-Director of the Ministry of Health in Santiago de Cuba at the closing meeting of Global Links’ site evaluation visit. For four days in April, Global Links staff visited hospitals affected by Hurricane Sandy, evaluating the impact of our support and assessing potential projects. At each hospital, the staff would thank us for the support we had provided and mention the Health Care Worker Kits as one of the key items they appreciated receiving.  “Yes.” I responded to the Vice-Director, “Everyone we spoke to highlighted those kits.”  The Vice-Director sat down, took off her glasses and quietly responded “They were very valuable; allow me to share my personal story.”

Hurricane Sandy was the strongest Hurricane to impact Santiago de Cuba.  A category 2 hurricane, Sandy entered Santiago with winds of up to 220 km per hour, tidal waves of 9 to 10 meters and hours upon hours of rain.  The difficult task of cleanup and rebuilding started immediately after the storm had cleared, but the magnitude of damage to the local infrastructure led to a rise in infectious diseases in the area.  Cholera, brought back to the Caribbean region through poor sanitary conditions at humanitarian response camps following the 2010 Haitian earthquake, is now one of the epidemiological risks following any disaster in the region. For months after Hurricane Sandy, healthcare workers in Santiago de Cuba canvassed the communities in the province identifying at-risk individuals and transporting patients with cholera to one of the main hospitals for treatment.

“We were at the point where we felt the situation was under control, and we were providing educational visits to the community about basic hygiene to prevent cholera.” explained the Vice-Director.  “We were visiting a community in the Sierras – the mountains – when a young doctor stopped at the home of an elderly man whom the neighbors believed was suffering from cholera.”  There was only one problem: the doctor had no protective gear with her.  They stood outside the house pondering possibilities that would allow the doctor to enter the house without putting her life at risk.  Did they assess the situation from the outside, go to the closest hospital for the protective gear and then come back?  But this was an area of difficult access, so it would be hours before they could come back and cholera patients cannot spare hours.  Then the Vice-Director remembered that she had one of the Health Worker kits we had sent in the trunk of her car. She was able to give the doctor a gown, gloves, and face mask, enabling the doctor to care for the patient with minimal risk to herself.

When we think about medical resources, we sometimes forget to include personnel – and yet of all the resources, they are the most precious.  This was brought home to me several times on my recent trip to Cuba. I also saw a lab technician washing microscope slides, a potential biohazard, thankfully wearing gloves from Global Links. Reusing single-use materials is common in the countries where we work and I was glad to see the staff taking precautions to protect themselves.

The health care worker kits were donated to Global Links by a local corporation who had them as preventive measures for a season in which H1N1 was on the rise.  Thankfully, there was no pandemic in Pittsburgh and the surplus materials served their purpose protecting Cuban Health care workers battling cholera.

Our project to help Santiago de Cuba recover and rebuild from Hurricane Sandy is now in phase two.   In 2014 and 2015, Global Links will be working on strengthening their ORs with anesthesia machines and surgical beds, their patient wards with beds and mattresses, their laboratories with microscopes and testing equipment. And as we worked during that closing meeting on the list of consumable supplies to prioritize during this phase, the Vice-Director smiled and said “And don’t forget to send more Healthcare Worker Kits.”

Global Links respiratory supplies in use
Global Links respiratory supplies in use
Global Links hospital bed in use
Global Links hospital bed in use
Washing microscope slides in Global Links gloves
Washing microscope slides in Global Links gloves
New mattresses needed in Hospital Saturino Lora
New mattresses needed in Hospital Saturino Lora
New OR table needed at Hospital Ambrosio Grillo
New OR table needed at Hospital Ambrosio Grillo

Working in collaboration with our partners in Cuba, Global Links has sent 21 total shipments of urgently needed medical supplies and furnishings to assist hospitals in regions most impacted by the fall 2008 hurricanes. This brings the total value of hurricane relief shipments to over $3.5 million.

Most recently, Global Links sent a shipment containing beds to furnish a rebuilt ward at the Cardiology Institute in Havana. This will mark our 97th shipment to Cuba since the program began in 1994.

The original focus of our relief efforts in Cuba was to provide assistance to Pinar del Rio and the Isla de la Juventud. However we have extended the aid to the other three provinces that were also severely affected by the hurricanes. Due to the support from foundations and individual donors like you, the Hurricane Relief Project was expanded to provide aid to more than twice as many institutions as originally expected.

Thank you for your past support of our hurricane relief program in Cuba. We will continue our efforts to help the affected regions recover and rebuild. Please leave us comments on our project below- we value your input!

Links:

Working in collaboration with our partners in Cuba, Global Links has sent 20 total shipments of urgently needed medical supplies and furnishings to assist hospitals in regions most impacted by the fall 2008 hurricanes . 12 of these shipments occurred in 2009 alone.

Most recently, Global Links sent shipment s to benefit a general hospital in Pinar del Rio as well as a pediatric hospital and maternity wing of a general hospital in Camaguey and Las Tunas. The donations included new delivery tables, baby bassinets, pediatric exam tables and more.

The total monetary amount of our donations to Cuba since 1994 is almost $80 million.

The original focus of our relief efforts in Cuba was to provide assistance to Pinar del Rio and the Isla de la Juventud. However we have extended the aid to the other three provinces that were also severely affected by the hurricanes. Due to the support from foundations and individual donors like you, the Hurricane Relief Project was expanded to provide aid to more than twice as many institutions as originally expected.

Thank you for your past support of our hurricane relief program in Cuba. We will continue our efforts to help the affected regions recover and rebuild. Please leave us comments on our project below- we value your input!

Working in collaboration with our partners in Cuba, Global Links has sent 15 total shipments of urgently needed medical supplies and furnishings to assist hospitals in regions most impacted by the hurricanes last fall.

Most recently, Global Links sent a shipment to benefit the Psychiatric Hospital in the province of Las Tunas.

We were also able to send over 350 hospital mattresses in July 2009 to health facilities in Las Tunas and Camag├╝ey provinces to replace many of the mattresses that had been damaged in the storms.

The original focus of our relief efforts in Cuba was to provide assistance to Pinar del Rio and the Isla de la Juventud. However we have extended the aid to the other three provinces that were also severely affected by the hurricanes. Due to the support from foundations and individual donors like you, the Hurricane Relief Project was expanded to provide aid to more than twice as many institutions as originally expected.

Thank you for your past support of our hurricane relief program in Cuba. We will continue our efforts to help the affected regions recover and rebuild. With your support Global Links hopes to send at least another 6 containers in the next six month period. Please leave us comments on our project below- we value your input!

Since our initial donations began arriving in Cuba last year, we have been coordinating with the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization office in Havana to target receiving institutions and discuss materials most needed. In April of this year, Global Links staff performed site visits to three of the targeted provinces, Las Tunas, Camaguay and Pinar del Rio visiting hospitals, primary care facilities and senior care homes. It was decided that our next shipments will be concentrated in Las Tunas and Camaguay provinces where we plan to address needs in senior care facilities, pediatric and general hospitals in each province. For example, we are planning to upgrade the maternity area of one of the hospitals with equipment and furnishings. A psychiatric hospital in Las Tunas suffered severe water damage when the windows blew out. They need furnishings for their patient recreation room. In April and May 2009, Global Links made three shipments to Cuba which included 195,000 pairs of sterile surgical gloves which will be provided to multiple hospitals in the country, and 2 containers of office furnishings (including filing cabinets, desks, chairs, storage cabinets, chart racks). There is an intense need for these basic furnishings as many were damaged during the storms, and most have not been replaced in 40+ years. We are planning additional shipments this year to the targeted provinces. Your support is greatly appreciated. Please leave us comments on our project below- we value your input!

 

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Organization Information

Global Links

Location: Pittsburgh, PA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.globallinks.org
Project Leader:
Angela Garcia
Deputy Director
Pittsburgh, PA United States

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