Despite how crucial it is to immediately respond to traumas after an earthquake, Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez-Mercado said there is no formal plan or instructions, nor are they needed, for a massive response to trauma because doctors, as part of their training, know what to do in case of emergencies, aside from the fact that each hospital has its own strategy for that. Experts interviewed by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) differ from Rodríguez-Mercado. And his deputy in charge of the Río Piedras Medical Center, the executive director of the Health Services Administration (ASEM, in Spanish), Jorge Matta-González, disagreed with him.
“All doctors are trained on what to do in times of emergency, hurricanes, mass casualties, all these problems. In an emergency such as an earthquake, the most commonly seen cases are orthopedics and neurosurgery,” said the Secretary in an interview with Radio Isla. His comments came after the CPI revealed that he had not shared a plan or instructions with his medical trauma team to handle possible massive number of cases after a major catastrophe following the earthquakes that have been rattling Puerto Rico for the past several weeks.
The head of the Health Department has not not reach out to Trauma Center Director Pablo Rodríguez-Ortiz, who said he was unaware of this administration’s strategy to attend to an unexpectedly high volume of patients or the resources available for that. Rodríguez-Mercado also failed to inform Rodríguez-Ortiz about the current written plan, namely the Public Health and Medical Services Emergency Management Operational Plan.