San Francisco health workers travel to Puerto Rico in Hurricane Maria relief effort

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018
San Francisco health workers travel to Puerto Rico
Following the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico, that island continues to slowly recover.

HATILLO, Puerto Rico (KGO) -- Following the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico, that island continues to slowly recover. One area of concern is health care as the medical community there is still overwhelmed.

The health department in San Francisco is committed to helping a town in Puerto Rico still without power and still in crisis, by providing doctors and nurses for a week.

Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico in chaos, it's people--confused. They were told the recovery would take a very long time.

RELATED: Silicon Valley group leading recovery efforts for Puerto Rico

The lackluster response from the federal government has crushed any hope of a quick recovery, especially in remote areas of the island.

"The hurricane happened on my birthday, so that was really intense to see this island destroyed," revealed Dr. Ann Dallman, a San Francisco physician whose husband has family on the island.

On April 6 she and a team from the San Francisco Department of Health will travel to Hatillo and Utuado, two small towns in the northwest part of the island.

Health Director Barbara Garcia has been working on the week-long trip for the past six months.

"We have a large staff of Puerto Rican descent and we know that they have had great concerns. I've spoken to some of them individually who have had families impacted, so for us this is a humanitarian effort from San Francisco to Puerto Rico," explained Garcia.

RELATED: 62 dogs and cats rescued from hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico

The group will be comprised of 15 people. They will be divided into two groups. One will work at a clinic in Utuado and the other group call the roaming medical team will go door to door to provide medical care to those who can't make it to the clinic.

The San Francisco contingency will give doctors and nurses there a much needed break.

They expect to treat many people with chronic diseases.

"A lot of high blood pressure, a lot of diabetes," said Dr. Dallman.

"We're going to see what they need and we're going to come back and report to the community as a whole and the county to let them know what else if needed, told us Richard Santana, a nurse at San Francisco General Hospital. His parents were born in Puerto Rico.

RELATED: Puerto Rico town gets new bridge 6 months after hurricane washed away old one

He says they were given a lot of opportunities when then moved to New York.

"It doesn't mean much to you if you can't share it and I've been given the opportunity to go back. How could I say no," expressed Santana.

Their mission has always been about taking care of the most vulnerable.

Click here for more stories, pictures and videos on Hurricane Maria.