Government dismisses need to plan a response to massive trauma cases

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.

Publicist Edwin Miranda tried to conceal his propaganda work, but reports say otherwise

Although after the publication of the Telegram chat, Publicist Edwin Miranda-Reyes claimed that the political work discussed in those conversations was billed and paid for by the Ricardo Rosselló political committee, during the period included in the 889 published pages there were no checks made out or bills issued by the committee on behalf of his advertising agency, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI in Spanish) found. Miranda is one of the 14 people who were referred last Friday by the Justice Department to the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (SIP) to investigate whether they committed crimes during those conversations. The CPI had access to the income and expense reports submitted by Ricardo Rosselló’s political committee to the Electoral Comptroller in which every candidate is legally required to — on a quarterly basis — disclose the money collected by their committee through donations or political activities, as well as all expenses for services received that have been paid or are pending payment. Miranda-Reyes said in written statements on July 12, 2019: “The FP+1 agency is responsible for providing advertising services to Ricardo Rosselló’s Committee for tasks related to promoting political affairs. That company handles social media.

Facing the risk of new earthquakes, Puerto Rico lacks a coordinated massive response plan for trauma emergencies

The greatest immediate death threat after earthquakes, such as those Puerto Rico has experienced for more than two weeks, are traumas that people may be exposed to in the face of a structural collapse. But Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez-Mercado has not shared a plan to address this risk nor has contacted his specialized trauma team since the earthquakes began, dangerously exposing the public. So far, the director of the only trauma center on the island, the Medical Center’s Trauma Hospital, and president of the Puerto Rico Trauma Committee before the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Pablo Rodríguez-Ortiz, has not been contacted by Rodríguez-Mercado neither before nor during the emergency that has already claimed two lives, has downed dozens of structures, resulting in more than 2,000 evacuees. Rodríguez-Mercado has not shared the current written plan —the Public Health and Medical Services Emergency Management Operational Plan — with his Trauma director, nor has he addressed the hospital’s structural deficiencies, according to internal sources and documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish). The 1,048-page plan only mentions the Trauma Hospital once and makes brief mentions about the Medical Center’s role in an emergency such as an earthquake.