NYSNA members are departing for Puerto Rico, to do their part in what is a humanitarian crisis on the island where 3.4 million people live. Most have been without power and water and limited fuel since Hurricane Maria roared across Puerto Rico on September 20. San Juan residents spent days wading through their neighborhoods in search of people in need of food. But medicines and medical care remain the top priority, and areas in the interior are still cut off, with rescue efforts underway.
NYSNA responded to a call from the AFL-CIO to join in with other unions and get skilled union workers on the ground. Flight attendants (AFA-CWA) and pilots (ALPA) helped to secure a plane from United Airlines to fly to Puerto Rico on October 4 with supplies and skilled workers. RNRN, based in Oakland, has worked to organize this effort, as well. “Literally paths have to be cleared through debris,” wrote the AFL in its statement. “People have to be kept alive in hospitals. Temporary power has to be set up to critical sites like hospitals and telecommunications hubs.”
I am diabetic. I have high blood pressure. I am an old lady, hauling pots to my carport to cook on a gas stove, praying to God to bring things back to normal,” a San Juan resident was quoted in the New York Times.
Three of our nurses are the first to join the NYSNA effort on the island and are on the flight: Roxanna Garcia, RN, Woodhull Medical Center; Jordyn Oleachea, RN, Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, and Natasha Sustache, NP, Montefiore Medical Center. They will remain there for two weeks providing critical care.
An opportunity to serve
As a Puerto Rican healthcare provider, I’m really grateful for this opportunity to go to Puerto Rico for disaster relief,” said RN Natasha Sustache. “Thank you to all the individuals and groups that have made this possible.”
More than one hundred NYSNA members answered the call to action on October 2, as RN assessment skills were needed to pack medical kits so personnel deployed to Puerto Rico have what they need (photo below). The AFYA organized the effort at the organization’s warehouse in Yonkers. The shipment included thousands of vaccines and antibiotics, basic first aid supplies, emergency medical and surgical supplies such as oxygen masks, suturing equipment, alcohol pads, syringes, bandages, nebulizers, IV catheters and surgical blades.
The next morning, these supplies were loaded on an a plane and Governor Andrew Cuomo was there to thank NYSNA and others who got the job done (photo above). “This mission was made possible by the generous efforts of the UJA-Federation of New York, AFYA Foundation, Greater Hospital Association, SEIU1199, New York State Nurses Association and Golden Tree Management.,” said Governor Cuomo.
NYSNA stands ready to continue this critical mission, with more donations, packing and nurses on the ground.
The crisis in Puerto Rico is our crisis.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYSNA members – all out for Puerto Rico.
Excerpt from Puerto Rican physician Dr. Carlo, upon receiving supplies packed this week:
I feel the need to put into words a little of this epic day. First and foremost thank you to all of you, Danielle, Lee and all the nurses who so lovingly put together the awesome crates we received. They are all on the way to remote places in PR. The doctors picking up supplies were squealing like children while picking up their much needed materials."