The Mennonite Health System has taken over the administration of the new health care center and emergency room, as well as the Diagnostic and Treatment Center recently built through a $2 million private-sector donation on the island municipality of Culebra.
Culebra has some 1,800 residents and receives more than 8,000 tourists on busy weekends and does not have a hospital. It has an ER and the Diagnostic and Treatment Center, known as the CDT for its initials in Spanish, to provide the necessary emergency care and primary health services. The CDT also offers special clinics during the year.
“Acquiring the administration of these facilities is a responsibility that we take very seriously,” said Pedro Meléndez, CEO of the Mennonite Health System.
“Our commitment is that residents of the island have access to health services that meet the highest quality standards, such as those we offer throughout the Mennonite Health System,” he said.
“Now the population of Culebra doesn’t have to leave the island to receive their primary or emergency health services,” he said. “Just like the Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico and the Culebra Mayor Iván Solís, we have the common interest of achieving a healthier population through optimized services. That’s why we accepted to be part of the health transformation in the island municipality of Culebra.”
The Emergency Room and CDT had not been remodeled since the 1980s. It was also not safe to operate in those facilities during a hurricane or tropical storm. Each time the island municipality received a cyclone warning the emergency room had to be relocated to the municipal shelter, which is now in the public school.
During Hurricane María in September 2017, the school’s electrical generator failed and the ability to provide emergency services was compromised.
“This is the first time that Culebra residents and visitors will have an adequate place with all the tools to treat health and some emergency situation,” said Theresa Bischoff, of the Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico, who were in charge of requesting donations for the construction of the new Health Care Center.
The Emergency Room could not reopen due to the structural damage suffered after the hurricanes in September 2017 and the services were transferred to the CDT. With limited space, few medicines and supplies the medical staff attended to the community, including the birth of a premature child.
“Direct Relief is grateful to be collaborating with Foundation For A Better Puerto Rico, which thanks to their work and effort to improve the Culebra CDT and making it capable to offer first class services to its patients, we are able to add solar energy with battery storage, donate three pharmaceutical refrigerators, and preposition emergency medicine in advance of hurricane season, making this center a more resilient one,” said Luis David Rodríguez, from Direct Relief.
Culebra’s iconic Flamenco Beach in recovery mode
Culebra’s world-famous, white-sand beach, Flamenco, is also undergoing a redevelopment to continue serving its some 700,000 visitors a year. The improvements aim at turning the public beach into the largest income driver for the island municipality and its residents.
However, due to budgetary constraints, municipal government and the Culebra Development Authority (ACDEC for its acronym in Spanish) created a collaborative agreement with the Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico for the entity to raise funds and rebuild the infrastructure and facilities of the beach.
The Foundation has worked quickly to the repair of the kiosks, bathrooms and showers while the progress of the new construction continues. In addition, the Foundation hired personnel to manage the beach while ACDEC develops a fiscal plan to be self-sufficient.
Engineers, architects, landscape architects and surveyors work to advance the project plans that must be completed in the year 2020.
Culebra fire station unveils solar energy project
On the other hand, as part of the efforts made by different organizations in the island municipality, New York-based nonprofit foundation Solar Responders was given the task of raising donations for the installation of a solar energy system for the pump station to serve as a rapid response center in case of emergency.
Hunter Johansson, CEO of the Foundation said, “every first responder station around the world has a renewable energy system and the purpose is to save lives, without electric power that mission would be impossible.”
Johansson is actress Scarlett Johansson’s brother. She has been quietly working to help Puerto Rico’s recovery after Hurricane María hit in September 2017.
This would be the second station equipped with this solar equipment after the foundation did the same work at the Rincón pump house. Its plans call for extending the effort to all fire stations in Puerto Rico, foundation officials said.