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Miami’s Bascom Palmer: Offering eye care in battered Puerto Rico

MiamiHerald / Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s clinical professionals know that every natural disaster has a unique impact on the delivery of sight-saving vision care. After Hurricane Katrina in 2006, our physician-led team spent two weeks in Louisiana and Mississippi providing eye care to residents and first responders. Within 48 hours after the 2010 earthquake, a team from Bascom Palmer arrived in Haiti with ophthalmic equipment and supplies to offer general medical aid and eye surgery. The following year, we transported the Vision Van, our mobile eye clinic, across the Pacific to serve as a base for Japanese ophthalmologists caring for victims of the deadly earthquake and tsunami.

Now we are actively engaged in providing different levels of support to Puerto Rico’s vision specialists and patients as part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s coordinated response to the unprecedented devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.

Our professionals flew in to San Juan carrying perishable medications for patients with glaucoma, macular degeneration and other chronic conditions. We also helped arrange transport for young children with vision-threatening problems so they could be treated on the mainland.

Next, we took an innovative approach to addressing the breakdown in communications caused by destruction of cell phone towers and the almost total loss of power. To help ophthalmologists on the island coordinate patient care, we launched “Eye Care PR,” an online communications network using Facebook and the WhatsApp mobile messaging application.

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