GW doctors travel to hurricane-stricken Caymans

A team of medical personnel from the GW Hospital traveled to the Grand Cayman in early October to provide medical relief following Hurricane Ivan.

The Grand Cayman, one of the three British-dependent Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, was left in ruins after the hurricane struck in early September. Winds of more than 155 miles per hour destroyed an estimated 50 percent of houses on the island and injured a significant number of people, Christina Catlett, director of the hospital’s Center for Emergency Preparedness, wrote in an e-mail.

Catlett received a request on Sept. 30 from a Cayman Islands insurance agency, Generali Insurance, to assemble a team of medical personnel to assist with the relief effort. Generali Insurance paid for the costs of transportation for the eight-day trip, which began Oct. 2.

Catlett selected five doctors, three resident physicians and two paramedics to accompany her. Chayan Dey, an attending physician from Johns Hopkins University, also participated.

Many healthcare workers fled the island before the hurricane hit, leaving a small number of doctors and other medical personnel to care for the injured, Catlett said. The team was able to relieve nearly 50 percent of the shifts normally covered by the hospital’s emergency physicians, who were able to rest and spend time with their families.

Since most of the hotels on the island were inhabitable, the group was housed in a ward of the island’s Georgetown Hospital, where they also concentrated their efforts.

“Since we arrived about three weeks after the hurricane, our mission was not so much to treat hurricane-related injuries, although there were some injuries from the clean-up process. We were mainly there to offer relief to the physicians and paramedics who were physically and emotionally exhausted,” Catlett said.

The team worked mainly in Georgetown Hospital’s emergency room treating respiratory problems, lacerations and broken bones.

GW has sent medical relief teams to disaster sites in the Western Hemisphere in the past when a request has been made. Anthony Macintyre, associate professor of Emergency Medicine, traveled to Iran last winter following a severe earthquake there.

Catlett said she and her team were glad to help the doctors and disaster victims.

“Overall, it was an amazing experience. Despite the Caymanians’ personal tragedies, everyone made us feel welcome,” Catlett said. “It’s rewarding to be able to use our emergency medicine and disaster response skills in a setting where it can make a difference in people’s lives.”

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