5 Florida Hospital physicians describe status of Puerto Rico's health system 2 weeks after hurricane

Five Orlando-based Florida Hospital physicians returned from a two-week trip to Puerto Rico to help physicians care for residents on the island, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria nearly three weeks ago, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The team — comprising Katia Lugo, MD; Jorge Lopez, MD; Alfredo Tirado-Gonzalez, MD; William Kotler, MD; and Julian Trivino, DO — traveled across the island via helicopter to visit several hospitals in the mountainous and rural regions of the territory severely affected by the storm.

Dr. Tirado-Gonzalez told the Orlando Sentinel the most difficult part of the experience was treating patients with chronic conditions who, under normal circumstances, would most likely not be suffering.

"That's something that really touched me," Dr. Tirado-Gonzalez said. "Maybe in other conditions, in other settings, these people didn't have to suffer or die."

While officials report the death toll from the storm as 34, the Florida Hospital physicians said they expect the number to rise once communication lines are reestablished across the island.

Some of the Florida physicians also identified as native Puerto Ricans, with relatives still living on the island. However, they were required to put the safety and security of their families at the back of their minds to focus on the task at hand of treating patients, according to the report.

Though they've returned to the U.S., the original group of Florida Hospital physicians said they plan to return to Puerto Rico during the coming weeks and months to help the island's health system recover, according to the report.

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