NYC Health Experts Head to Puerto Rico

The group of experts from the New York City Department of Health, led by First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot (fifth from left in blue jacket and khakis), at the airport before leaving for Puerto Rico. (Photo via El Diario)

New York City authorities have made good on their promise to lend a hand to Puerto Rico to help it recover from the great devastation caused by Hurricane María in October.

On Tuesday, a contingent of experts from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), led by First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, arrived on the “Island of Enchantment” to assist with medical recovery work for two weeks.

In addition to disease prevention, the DOHMH representatives will perform epidemiological surveillance work and environmental health evaluations, and support people with mental health problems.

Dr. Barbot was joined by three public health experts, two emergency agents from New York City’s Emergency Management department, and eight arborists from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

After Hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico two months ago, New York City has made enormous efforts to help with the country’s recovery. So far, the Big Apple has deployed 278 employees to provide a wide range of aid, from the creation of a supplies distribution center to building inspections and water and food distribution.

“I am proud to send highly-trained senior personnel to provide assistance in key aspects of disaster response and public health. New York City has the highest population of Puerto Ricans outside of the island; it is our duty to provide assistance to our fellow Americans during this difficult time,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

The DOHMH team will assist in critical areas such as public health by offering senior-level guidance to determine the resource needs of the public health infrastructure. Epidemiological surveillance will also take place to gather data aimed at planning long-term public health responses.

The New York experts will also carry out industrial hygiene, occupational health and environmental public health tasks. The latter refers to offering protection from health risks related to food, water, air quality, vectors and sheltering.

Among the medical services that will be offered are disease prevention, vaccinations and laboratory processing for responders on the island. Mental health support will also be provided, including psychological first aid, guidance, training, coordination and long-term emotional support.

“New York City is looking forward to working with public health leadership in Puerto Rico to rebuild the island’s capacity in disease prevention and response,” said Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “We are confident we will be able to make a positive impact on the ground in the recovery and rebuilding efforts.”

Power experts

In addition, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Tuesday the deployment of an additional 72 electric utility experts from New York state. They arrive in Puerto Rico on Wednesday to assist in the recovery of the island’s power grid.

The deployment coincides with the arrival of a barge carrying an additional 55 utility vehicles and equipment to the port of San Juan. This brings the number of New York state utility personnel involved in the power restoration effort to 457 employees, with approximately 330 utility vehicles and other power recovery equipment.

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