Americares’ mobile medical unit donated medical facility in Puerto Rico

STAMFORD --  More than two months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the U.S. Territory continues to operate without power on much of the island.

This "Giving Tuesday", it was announced the island will soon receive a special delivery by way of medical care.

Stamford-based Americares’ mobile medical unit was once the shell of a school bus, but was converted by the non-profit into a mobile doctor’s office.  The unit has served patients in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, in New York following Superstorm Sandy, and in Texas after Hurricane Ike.

In addition to helping with medical care in disaster relief zones, the unit served thousands of patients in Connecticut for well over a decade.  It was used in low income communities to provide medical services to people who did not have health insurance or who were not able to afford going to the doctor.

The unit has served patients in Bridgeport, Groton, New London, Milford, and so on. Its last stop was in Stamford, but Americares said they have since built a permanent medical clinic in its place, making the mobile unit no longer needed.

The unit will now be donated to the Ponce Medical School Foundation in San Juan Puerto Rico.

“So right now in Puerto Rico there’s many facilities who are not open or limping along. They haven’t been able to get back to their full capacity. The mobile medical unit is able to go into communities that are affected by disasters and park in a spot that’s accessible to patients who need the care in the moment,” said Kate Dischino, Americares’ Director of Emergency Response.

The unit will be trucked down to Florida later in December.  It will then be shipped into San Juan, where the title will be handed over to the medical school foundation.

The news of the move came with many emotions for Joan Weisman, a longtime donor to Americares.

“So, I call it the little bus that could,” Weisman said with a few tears running down her cheek.  The mobile medical unit was a passion project for Weisman and her late husband Fred.  Weisman got the call the unit was being donated on Fred’s Birthday.

“They said we found a wonderful use and home for the clinic and that it was going to Puerto Rico and that could not have made me happier,” Weisman said.  She added she believes her husband is smiling down over the unit and its new journey to continue on making a difference.

Americares is a health-focused relief and development organization that responds to people affected by poverty or disaster.  Their services reach 90 countries and operates in all 50 U.S. states.