Dr. Robert Fuller visited five primary clinics in Puerto Rico Wednesday -- gong clockwise around the island from San Juan to Arroyo and then north to Caguas.
Each of the clinics he visited had the same story: they were running on diesel power, using only small portions of their facilities to conserve power, and limiting their hours. Not one was able to shoot an x-ray.
“This is why we’ll see some of the referral hospitals that are being supported with more intense resources... those referral hospitals will be swamped," said Fuller, a UConn physician on the island with International Medical Corps. "And they won’t necessarily be swamped with a lot of really sick people. They’ll be swamped with people that know there’s power and air conditioning and lights on and there’s an x-ray machine and they’ll go there and get their x-ray.”
One of the clinics in Loiza -- just east of San Juan -- had only six hours of diesel left for the generator. Another clinic had just gotten 875 gallons of generator fuel, but the generator was dying from overuse.
“The generator that we inspected at the end of the day was running 40 degrees over temperature, wasn’t cooling anymore, wasn’t putting out as much power as it used to," he said. "So they were going to have to shut it down and let it rest for 12 hours and cool off.”
Fuller says the best medical support he can offer the clinics is to get them cash to buy diesel, and to get them new generators. He says they don’t need any more doctors.
“They’d trade me in a heartbeat for a tankful of generator fuel.”
Fuller said his work on the island could wrap up this week.
This story is part of “The Island Next Door,” WNPR’s reporting project about Puerto Rico and Connecticut after Hurricane Maria.