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USF Health Witnesses ‘Invisible Injury’ Of Dorian Evacuees In Bahamas

Sep 24, 2019

In the weeks since Hurricane Dorian, cities in the Bahamas are now housing thousands of people displaced by the devastation.

This past weekend, four USF Health doctors traveled to Nassau to offer medical help to the evacuees.

Compared to Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the doctors said they were impressed with the “structured organizational response” in the Bahamas.

“The Ministry of Health provided a very comprehensive view of what was going on, what was up and running, what they need, which is the first step,” said Dr. Seetha Lakshmi.

According to Dr. Elimarys Perez Colon, who went on hurricane relief missions to Puerto Rico, since most of the country is up and running, logistics including transportation and lodging for volunteers was much easier.

Dr. Andrew Myers spent time with the displaced children in Nassau in between school physicals. USF HEALTH

“We got a briefing our first day there and their biggest need was taking care of (displaced) children and making sure that they were cleared to go to school,” said Dr. Andrew Myers.

The team was able to complete school physicals on over 60 students, clearing them of any illnesses that would prevent them from participating in classes.

ALSO READ: Kids In Bahamas Stranded With Schools Damaged By Hurricane Dorian

About 70% of the patients were from the hard-hit Abaco Islands and are now living in public shelters.

Along with ailments such as upper respiratory infections, asthma, and pneumonia, many were found to be suffering from emotional and psychological trauma.

“There is so much invisible injury, in terms of how we have to cope with missing members of the family and loss of livelihood,” Lakshmi said. “We definitely have to recognize that we have to build the people along with building the place back.”

They also brought 3,000 pounds of medical supplies, medication, and other necessities to Rand Memorial Hospital on Grand Bahama, adding to the estimated 50,000 pounds of humanitarian donations they and their partners have been able to deliver since the hurricane.

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Dr. Seetha Lakshmi and Dr. Asa Oxner give physicals to student evacuees to clear them for participating in classes. USF HEALTH

USF Health is planning around five more flights with supplies and will be sending another team of healthcare providers to Treasure Cay next weekend, with future aid depending on needs and donations.  

However, Myers says that after speaking with the government, they are trying to get away from having basic items donated in an effort to support the stores in their unaffected cities.

“Nassau is kind of the economic engine of the country and they are still able to import those goods,” he said. “It’s important to think about that you want to be able to support the local infrastructure as well.”

Lakshmi and Myers said that with tourism being their main source of income, visiting those areas may be the best way to support the local economy, and that cities like Nassau are open for business.