image In the final months of 2019, Mother Nature’s wrath once again devastated the island nations near Florida’s coast. Abaco Island, one of the many islands that comprise the Bahamas, found itself at ground zero as Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Sept. 1, 2019. The Category 5 hurricane devastated the small island for 48 hours, resulting in the destruction of Abaco’s homes, buildings, hospital, churches and communities.
A group of Florida-based clinicians, led by Nora Bolanos, M.D., a pediatrician in Osceola County, contacted Jose Rubero, M.D., an emergency physician at Osceola Regional Medical Center and a faculty member at the University of Central Florida, College of Medicine, as well as the UCF/HCA GME Consortium of Greater Orlando Emergency Medicine Residency Program, to form a medical relief group in assisting the people of Abaco due to Dr. Rubero’s past experience in hurricane disasters.
This was not the first time Dr. Rubero had assisted after a disaster. In October 2017, Dr. Rubero went to Puerto Rico after it was devasted by Hurricane Maria to lend aid.
Bringing with him 22 boxes filled with medical supplies, Dr. Rubero traveled to Abaco Island on Nov. 14 as part of a medical relief team. The group included Andrew Hanna, M.D., one of his third-year emergency medicine residents, and local physicians as well as the Minister of Health. Through their contact with the Minister of Health and local government, the team obtained unrestricted medical license to practice in the Bahamas.
Upon arrival, the group began visiting shelters, churches and schools while there was still sunlight, as electrical power had not been restored in the two months following Dorian’s landfall. During the nights, Dr. Rubero helped run the emergency room of the only hospital on the island. The facility was equipped with an X-ray machine and laboratory facilities but had no technicians to perform X-rays or to run bloodwork. This meant each patient needed to be stabilized, diagnosed and treated without X-rays or labs. Patients who needed more advanced medical care had to be airlifted to Nassau.
The people of Abaco were still struggling to recover during Dr. Rubero’s visit. Children on the island had moved to nearby Nassau to continue attending school, accompanied by many of the island’s women and elderly, while many residents stayed behind to help with the island’s reconstruction efforts.
In the days following the disaster, Abaco received support from the international community, but Dr. Rubero noted that assistance had decreased with the passage of time. Thankfully, that will not be the case with Dr. Rubero, as he and his team were able to establish a lasting relationship with the island’s Minister of Health, local government and island physicians. Because of this, they will be able to continue sending the island medical relief on a monthly or bi-monthly schedule.
Dr. Rubero's work in the Bahamas is a shining example of the compassion and generosity of Envision Physician Services clinicians. Thank you, Dr. Rubero, for everything you and your team have done!
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