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Hurricane Maria Leaves Hospital In Puerto Rico Running On Generator Power


There is devastation in the Caribbean today, too. Hurricane Maria has hit hard. Puerto Rico is experiencing widespread flooding, and it seems the entire island has lost power. The storm just passed, and people are only beginning to figure out the full extent of the damage. Earlier today I checked in with Domingo Cruz Vivaldi. He's administrator of the San Jorge Children's Hospital in Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan.

DOMINGO CRUZ VIVALDI: The hospital has been without power since 2 o'clock in the morning. It has been running with a power generator. The power generator is working fine. At this point, we have about 60 percent occupancy at the hospital. All patients are doing well. All employees are doing well. We have some damages to (unintelligible) building. The elevator went out and got some water. And so far, the hospital is working as normal as possible all things considered at this point.

SHAPIRO: Is the generator providing all the power you need, or do you have to prioritize certain things over others?

VIVALDI: No. We have a generator that provides for 100 percent of all the electrical needs, including air conditioning. That's probably the most urgent need that we have. Once this - the hurricane passes, we should have the outside power back. Power generators are not designed to work permanently. They're used as a temporary means. And you know, that's probably our - short-term, our only concern.

SHAPIRO: When you say short-term, do you mean days or weeks? How long do you think you could...

VIVALDI: No, I'd say days.


VIVALDI: Based on my previous experience, you know, power generators - after a week, you know, they just start to give you some kind of trouble, either overheating or some mechanical of problem. So very short-term, you know, within the next two, three, four days at the most. Then we'll at work immediately to get power back. Based on previous experiences as well, during the hurricane, people don't come to the hospital. But right after the hurricane, probably tomorrow and the next coming days and weeks, we'll have a high volume of patients coming in.

SHAPIRO: And are you ready to take in a lot more patients?

VIVALDI: Yes. We have a prepared plan, and we have employees that will rotate. And we have a supply of (unintelligible). We have supply of food. So we are OK at this time to take care of patients. Really our only concern short-term is having power back because we can only do emergency surgeries, and we cannot do anything really elective.

SHAPIRO: I know that the power grid is so fragile in Puerto Rico. More than half of the population lost power in Irma. Hurricane Maria is a direct hit. There have been projections that power might not come back for weeks or months. What would you do in that scenario?

VIVALDI: Well, that will be catastrophic. Some hospitals will have to shut down. And if we don't get power within a week or two, I'm sure hospitals will have to shut down and will have to transfer patients to other hospitals in Puerto Rico or outside Puerto Rico.

SHAPIRO: This is a children's hospital, and a hurricane can be scary for anyone. But I can only imagine for a sick child what this experience might be like. How are you able to comfort the patients who are there in your care?

VIVALDI: Well, we try to explain to them as best as possible what was going to happen. We also explained to them that if needed, they will be removed from the room. And they're providing meals to the patient as well as to the companion. And we are, you know, providing for all their immediate needs. As long as the power generator doesn't cause any problems inside the hospital, it looks pretty normal. But that's the big concern. So that's something that is (unintelligible) raise the voice to the government to make sure we get the proper emphasis on getting hospitals back to normal as soon as possible.

SHAPIRO: Thank you. Stay safe.

VIVALDI: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: That was Domingo Cruz Vivaldi, administrator of the San Jorge Children's Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.