Prior to COVID-19, health services in Puerto Rico, as in most countries, were focused on individual care. However, after the pandemic, the industry is starting to approach public health in an outbreak context instead, paying special attention to chronic disease patients due to their frailty and vulnerability in emergency situations like this. To discuss this matter in broader detail— framed within the COVID-19 reality— leading healthcare company MCS has brought together recognized health experts in Puerto Rico in the educational symposium, under its MCS Conexion de Salud program: “Challenges and hurdles in dealing with chronic diseases in rapidly-evolving environments. "
“Our role in this emergency as a key stakeholder in the healthcare community becomes even more relevant when we know those most at risk make up the senior population. In addition to being over age 65, around 80% of our members suffer from chronic conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, the healthcare landscape in Puerto Rico is rapidly changing, and that has required a swift change in the way we approach public health and chronic disease patients, ”explained Dr. Inés Hernández, MCS Chief Medical Officer.
According to Dr. Hernández, a common factor in epidemics is the high number of patients who arrive at hospitals all at the same time. “This can have a negative impact on even well-developed healthcare systems, which are not used to coping with these kinds of numbers every day. And if we add to this the staggering statistics concerning chronic, vulnerable patients in Puerto Rico, the panorama becomes more worrisome. Adapting to such fast-paced situation, is not easy, ”she warned. To put matters into perspective, Dr. Hernández stressed that those over the age of 65, as well as those with conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension, among others, are the ones most vulnerable to COVID-19. “In Puerto Rico, around 35.4% of the elderly population suffers from diabetes, and 15.2% from asthma. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), hypertension has a prevalence rate of 73%, ”Dr. Hernández explained.
Given the spread of the coronavirus in Puerto Rico, this data poses a major challenge to the island’s healthcare system and highlights the health risk to the island’s elderly. However, from the outset, MCS and the healthcare community have been proactive in their response to the emergency, developing telemedicine alternatives to help decongest emergency rooms and prevent people from leaving their homes, along with education campaigns to provide information relevant to the health crisis and other alternatives aimed to ease the burden on healthcare professionals and reduce the chances of contagion as the situation progresses.
“The healthcare community must continue to work as a team. We are aware that those working in hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies and medical offices are on the front lines of the emergency response, and we will continue to work tirelessly, together with the island's medical professionals, to ensure effectiveness in providing the services needed amid the emergency, and beat COVID-19. Despite the circumstances, people can rest easy, knowing that all our efforts are aimed at making sure they are diligently cared for, and receiving all the healthcare services they need during this maelstrom, ”said Roberto Torres, MCS Chief Operations Officer.
During the symposium, the challenges in dealing with the vulnerable populations during the state of emergency will be discussed in greater detail by renowned figures in the healthcare community: Dr. Inés Hernández; Dr. Humberto Guiot, Infectoligist; Ixel Rivera, MCS Clinical Operations Executive Vice President; Coralis Alsina, licensed nutritionist; Dr. Luis C. Torruellas, Pneumologist; Dr. William Vega, Nephrologist; Dr. Raúl López, Psychiatrist; Dr. Denis Ruiz, Cardiologist; Dr. Paola Mansilla, Endocrinologist.
The MCS Health Connection symposium for providers will be held on August 14, 21 and 28 virtually through the Webex tool. Registration is required. The symposium has been approved by the Central Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies for 6 contact hours as Continuing Medical credits. Healthcare service providers interested in participating in future activities can register by sending an email to the address of the Conexion de Salud program at [email protected] to leave their contact information.