Faith & Spirituality

May 7, 2014

Earthquake-damaged hospitals condemned

PLATTSBURGH — The ground shook for two weeks after the April 10 earthquake struck Nicaragua — and the reverberations will last far longer.

Two hospitals have been shut down for good, and Plattsburgh-based North Country Mission of Hope is assessing how to help.

There were no injuries when the first temblors struck, but patients were evacuated from Velez Paiz and Maurice Abdallah hospitals due to fears of structural damage and, in the case of the latter, because of concern that a nearby volcano would erupt, as well.

The most seriously ill children were sent to another hospital, said Sister Debbie Blow, executive director of the North Country Mission of Hope. Some women were given beds at Bertha Calderon Women’s Hospital, one of the first that Mission of Hope began helping many years ago.

“Some of the patients, they just had to send home,” she said.

It will not be an easy matter for those people to access the disrupted hospital care, whether for illness or surgery, the Dominican Sister of Hope said.

“When that happens for a very poor person, it could be months” before he or she gets treatment.


There was a pediatric respiratory ward on the second floor of Velez Paiz that, when Mission of Hope volunteered there in February, was full of wheezing youngsters, said Dr. Roger Patnode, who heads the medical component of Mission of Hope.

As it was, the Plattsburgh physician said, that floor had not long ago been off limits due to damage never repaired after the 1972 earthquake, which killed some 10,000 people.

The only reason it was made available again, Patnode believes, is because there was no other place for the children —  not because of repairs.

“If (the patients) weren’t there, I don’t know where they would have been.” 

Sister Ligia, the nun who heads Maurice Abdallah, “was very, very concerned about the critically ill patients that need to be moved,” Blow said.

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