US nurses pitch in to help Puerto Rico

The United States government didn’t do much to help Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria but a large delegation of American nurses did.

Fifty nurses from the Registered Nurse Response Network were among a delegation of 300 union members assembled by the AFL–CIO (the United States’ peak union body) for the relief mission to Puerto Rico.

The delegation represented 20 unions from 17 states. They also took 35,000 pounds of relief supplies.

Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) is a national network of volunteer nurses, sponsored by National Nurses United, with specialty skills critical in disaster situations.

“As nurses, whenever there’s a call and there’s an ask, we go. The elderly that have been without oxygen, without food or water, are at risk, everyone’s at risk but particularly the children and the elderly,” said Cathy Kennedy, an RN volunteer with the Puerto Rico deployment.

In Puerto Rico, the nurses concentrated their efforts on local hospitals, nursing homes, and other sites based on immediate need for island residents who had endured unprecedented devastation as a result of the super storm.

While the US government was widely condemned for its failure to respond adequately to the Puerto Rican crisis the US union movement won widespread respect.

AFL–CIO President Richard Trumka said the union delegation aimed “to bring skilled workers to the front lines to deliver supplies, care for victims and rebuild Puerto Rico”.

“The working families of Puerto Rico are our brothers and sisters,” he said.