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Hurricane Maria aftermath prompts call for change from hospital administrator

“I think everyone went into shock,” said Dr. Deana Hallman, Ryder Hospital. “No one expected such bad devastation.”


Hurricane Maria delivered a knockout punch to Puerto Rico in September 2017.

"I think everyone went into shock," said Dr. Deana Hallman, on Friday, May 11.

The hurricane dealt a major blow to Ryder Hospital in Humacao, Puerto Rico, where she serves at medical director.

"No one expected such bad devastation," she continued.  "No one expected such a horrible hurricane.  No one expected so much loss."

Some eight months later, Dr. Hallman is visiting the mainland to share her experience with some 500 staffers from Genesis Health System.

Genesis also presented her with a check for $20,000 to help hospital employees recover after the hurricane.

"Everything just toppled down," she recalled.  'No roof on top."

Damage at Ryder Hospital came at a time when employees lost their own homes.  With power out and phones down, it made a bad situation even worse.

"The loss of communication was really bad," she continued.  "Just to gauge together a way to help was really challenging."

Her lessons from Hurricane Maria center on better communication and coordination.  The hospital gave employees a voice in recovery.

"I want you to figure out what the hospital, the new area, is going to look like," she said.

Dr. Hallman, who is a cancer specialist, also noticed an uptick in depression and suicidal patients after the hurricane.  That's prompting plans to expand mental health services at Ryder Hospital.

After making slow progress into 2018, rebuilding is helping to create a new vision for the hospital and Puerto Rico.

"Creation is so much better than just looking at devastation," she concluded. "That's what we're doing right now, and it's great."