Last month, I visited Puerto Rico with a team of six members assembled by the AHA, Greater New York Hospital Association, and Healthcare Association of New York State, as part of our initiative to identify ways the field can aid in this health care community’s long-term recovery and return to normal operations. Our fact-finding team met with hospital administration and staff from 10 of Puerto Rico’s 69 hospitals to get a better understanding of their immediate and long-term needs. 

Our visit came nearly two months after Hurricane Maria’s 155-miles-per hour winds toppled the island’s communications towers, wrecked its electrical grid and knocked out power to water systems. It left the island’s health system on life support. 

Recovery is complex, and the island’s health care system remains deeply damaged. 

Puerto Rico’s caregivers are rightfully proud of how they have met this unprecedented challenge. But they are concerned about the road ahead.   

They will need our continued support. Repairing and rebuilding Puerto Rico’s health care infrastructure may take years of time, patience and resources. 

Our travel team was able to identify several key areas of concern, but we are still a long way from truly understanding how our member hospitals and health systems can assist and take part in the recovery process. 

That is why the AHA, in close collaboration with the Puerto Rico Hospital Association, is working to survey all the hospitals and health systems in Puerto Rico, as well as those in the U.S. Virgin Islands, so we can get a broader picture of what the greatest concerns will be during the recovery process. We will continue to gather information in the coming months and will identify the best ways our members can assist in this effort. We expect to have more to report early next year. 

In the meantime, let the holiday season’s spirit of helping, sharing and caring – a spirit that lives every day of the year in America’s hospitals and health systems – move you to express your appreciation for Puerto Rico’s heroic caregivers. 

As part of our efforts, the AHA has activated The Care Fund – – to provide support to hospital employees in Puerto Rico affected by the storms. Let us not forget those who have done so much to help so many. 

Ryan Frazier is the AHA’s senior vice president of member relations.