to main content Carlos R. Ortiz | The Joint Commission
Carlos R. Ortiz

Carlos R. Ortiz, MD, MS, FCCP

Hospital Surveyor, The Joint Commission

Dr. Carlos R. Ortiz discusses how a team from The Joint Commission helped support hospitals in Puerto Rico with a variety of COVID resources.

Educating hospitals in Puerto Rico during COVID-19 pandemic


“Puerto Rico, a US territory with 3.2 million residents, has had a lot of major issues to deal with in the last five years. It has defaulted on over $70 billion worth of debt which has reduced government activity related to providing residents with proper healthcare. Hurricane Maria in 2017 devastated the island with flood damage and left many with no electricity for 3-6 months. In many ways it still hasn’t completely recovered. Fast forward to 2020, and there was a significant earthquake in the southern part of the island in January and another in May which has caused additional devastation. Then of course we were all hit with COVID-19.”


“Puerto Rico has about 63 hospitals, of which 44 are accredited by The Joint Commission. I led a group from The Joint Commission who in the past had gone to Puerto Rico. The group was formed to help out as we feared hospitals there could easily be overwhelmed with sick patients. As COVID started to affect the island, the government acted quite rapidly in instituting a lock-down system restricting businesses, as well as a curfew limiting who could be outside of their homes. As a consequence of that, COVID in Puerto Rico has not been as devastating as any of us anticipated. Hospitals have not been overrun as bed capacity on the island is around 9,000 beds and roughly 100 or so are currently being used to treat COVID patients.”


“Our team helping Puerto Rico had several goals. One was to support our accredited hospitals’ ability to maintain adequate infection control measures, PPE safety, etc. We leveraged the Joint Commission COVID-19 Resources website for educational purposes. We focused on staff education relative to proper PPE usage, guidelines on infection safety and how to navigate various Medicare waivers.”


“At the same time, we were also able to contact the Puerto Rican Hospital Association to set up additional educational sessions relative to different COVID topics using the slides provided on the COVID-19 Resources website, but with the lectures presented in Spanish. Some members of our Puerto Rico team got involved with translating many of the Joint Commission COVID guidelines and infographics into Spanish. Team members also took a Joint Commission behavioral health and infection control presentation and translated and presented that in Spanish to a group of about ten psychiatry institutes.”


“This was all really well received and appreciated. Previously hospitals looked at The Joint Commission as major regulatory individuals ‘coming to check on us,’ but as a consequence of this project, they are now looking at us more as a partner, and are willing to ask us about different topics related to safety and environmental care and inspection issues.”