In September 2017 Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, one of the most devastating hurricanes in the island’s history.
More than 4,600 deaths have been officially attributed to Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. Young children and older people were most affected, and many people who depended on life support equipment or dialysis died. The rescue teams were not able to reach some people in need for many months and some people were trapped and buried in their homes by floods.
Telephone lines were lost and the island had no internet service for more than five months. Tis made it difficult for physical therapists to connect and work collaboratively with people affected by the hurricane.
Marizabel La Puerta, President of the Puerto Rican Association of Physical Therapy, said: ‘The Puerto Rican Association of Physical Therapy only received the internet and phone lines 11 months after the hurricane. We were using a temporary connection provided by the phone company. This made it difficult for us to comply with deadlines for the submission of reports and other documents. Clinicians on the island gradually began to work, reassume treatment plans, and help their respective communities to restore clinical services in hospitals, clinics and private offices of physical therapy. Some clinical sites had to close due to lack of electric power, others used generators to provide services with reduced office hours. Some physical therapists have moved permanently to the USA.
‘We are now working again at full speed. Our annual convention will be held on November 10, 2018 at the Intercontinental Hotel at Isla Verde, one of the hotels that did not suffer any damage. We are also doing fundraising activities for WCPT Congress 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. Our plans are to be there representing Puerto Rico – and our goal is to send two representatives!’