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Saipan faces health care challenges

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The health concerns of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands residents affected by Supertyphoon Yutu are being prioritized as best they can, said John Doyle, a physician at Commonwealth Health Care Corporation and Marianas Medical Center on Saipan.

The hospital is “completely full and overflowing at this point,” Doyle said.

Immediate health concerns are injuries or lacerations that may become infected due to the lack of water.

“Without water, people can’t bathe and hygiene suffers,” Doyle said. A small cut can be life-threatening without the proper treatment, he said. “We have people digging through piles and piles of rubble and you start getting small lacerations.”

For some, the shock and stress of the event led to serious health episodes.

“We had people who have suffered a heart attack or stroke,” Doyle said. “These people were huddled in the bathroom with the roofs torn off the house. … They are shellshocked, and they are numb.”

Food and waterborne illnesses are concerns as days pass without power,  Doyle said. “As the food begins to decay, it develops bacteria.”

It may be hard for people to throw away the food they do have.

“They end up trying to eat it anyway, and they end up sick,” Doyle said.

Even when water has been restored, bacteria, such as E. coli, can seep into pipes and can cause infectious diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and dehydration, Doyle said.

The most vulnerable and high-risk are the elderly and the very young, Doyle said, because of their limited ability to get around and their reliance on others.

Individuals with chronic medical conditions, such as those who require an oxygen concentrator, are prioritized to get into shelters, Doyle said.

For others, health professionals are working overtime to make sure everyone is treated as quickly as possible.

Doyle said the hospital, while at its maximum capacity, “didn’t miss a beat” in responding after Yutu.

A temporary clinic has been established to help address noncritical care and ease the crowding at the hospital.

Chris Crabtree, the commander for the Hawaii Disaster Medical Assistance Team, said the CHCC Yutu Relief Clinic had 89 individuals seek assistance on Monday and was set to exceed 200 by Wednesday afternoon. It is the only temporary clinic on the island for now.

The clinic is set in the southern part of Saipan, the hardest-hit area of the island. The clinic provides medical services for injuries as well as immunizations and a pharmacy.

The clinic is administering flu and tetanus vaccines, according to pharmacist Mark Brown. So far, many of those who sought help are adults and older children.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/108622-saipan-faces-health-care-challenges

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