SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – In the mountains located in the western interior of Puerto Rico is a small general hospital that not only cares for its community’s health but is the economic center of the remote town of Castañer.
With the closest medical centers more than an hour away, the Castañer General Hospital is the lifeline to more than 6,000 residents in the mountainous region. Additionally the hospital is the town’s main source of employment and water.
After Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico September 5, the hospital lost one of two back-up generators. They quickly rushed to install and connect their second generator prior to Hurricane Maria’s landfall, and that generator has been powering the hospital ever since. Industry recommends complete maintenance every 240 hours and the generator at the hospital was extremely overdue and showed signs of weakening.
With little time to spare, on November 10, a FEMA temporary generator arrived at the remote facility. The 250 kilowatt generator is the 500th generator installed by the USACE Emergency Temporary Power Planning and Response Teams from Albuquerque and Pittsburgh Districts.
“The generator arrived just in time,” said Adrian Gonzalez, Castañer General Hospital chief operating officer. “Our current generator had been working non-stop for 1,300 hours and was showing signs of failure.”
For more than 60 years the hospital has served the cities of Lares, Adjuntas, Yauco and Las Marias. Gonzalez said the generator not only allows them to provide emergency medical support and clinics to its patients but it also runs a water pump that has been providing water from the facilities well to residents.
“Without that generator, we could not provide emergency medical services, we would lose medicines that require refrigeration and the local residents would have no clean water,” said Gonzalez.
As the contracted team of technicians worked to install the new generator, another USACE team arrived to assess the soon to be off-line generator. Castañer General Hospital was also approved by FEMA as a Non-Fed generator to be maintained, repaired and fueled by USACE until commercial power is restored.
“This generator will allow for the hospital to perform complete maintenance on their generator, and then both generators can be used alternately to power the hospital,” said Puerto Rico Recovery Field Office Commander Col. James DeLapp.
On October 28th the Albuquerque District Emergency Temporary Power PRT installed its 311th temporary generator in support of Hurricane Maria response and recovery efforts, surpassing the record set during Hurricane Katrina. As the temporary power mission continues the Pittsburgh District has taken the baton and continues the task of providing FEMA generators to communities like Castañer.
With a new FEMA generator and a guarantee of support for their hard working generator, the hospital staff and Castañer. General Hospital can breathe a little easier. According to Gonzalez they can relax now knowing they have a new working generator on site. “This will allow us to focus on other things we haven’t been able to for a while.”
By days end a total of 531 generators have been installed throughout Puerto Rico providing more than 162 megawatts of power to more than 49 hospitals, 44 waste water facilities, 242 water pumps, 30 emergency services facilities, 10 airports and many other critical facilities.
“With the Puerto Rico’s power grid operating at approximately 43 percent of pre-storm capacity, the ability to provide generators for critical facilities continues to be a high priority for FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said DeLapp.
Writer’s note: A video report can be viewed at: