U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson today sent the following letter to the head of the Dept. of Health and Human Services asking for additional support and assistance in Puerto Rico following reports this week of the island’s most vulnerable residents who remain in “mortal peril.
Read more from the New York Times report here.
Following is the text of the letter sent to HHS Acting Secretary Hargan, a pdf copy is available here.
October 13, 2017
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington DC 20201
Dear Acting Secretary Hargan,
I write today regarding the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. As recently detailed in The New York Times, in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria many of the island’s most vulnerable residents remain “in mortal peril.”
Three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall, only 10 percent of the island has power. At least 40 percent of the island doesn’t have access to clean drinking water. Contaminated floodwaters are placing thousands of residents at-risk of infection, and even death.
Access to oxygen supplies, medicines and diesel to power generators are limited. Sixty-seven of the nearly 70 hospitals are operational with 29 running off temporary generators. Forty-three of the island’s 48 dialysis centers are operational, and yet dialysis patients are receiving reduced treatments. While these numbers sound encouraging, I’m concerned they’re painting a much rosier picture than reality.
According to the article, individuals who depend on oxygen tanks, ventilators, and dialysis are dying or are at risk because of limited access to medically necessary services and fuel supplies to power generators. Generator power is intended to be a temporary solution and it will be months before power is fully restored. At a minimum, these facilities need sufficient diesel—or an alternative power source, like solar-powered generators— to keep their patients alive and healthy.
While I understand the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is sending personnel and resources to Puerto Rico, this article made clear that it is not enough. The situation is not improving, and Americans are dying. I have raised this issue with your agency before, and I urge you now to take immediate steps to prevent further loss of life.
I implore you to partner with the island to ensure that priority locations like dialysis centers and hospitals have access to an adequate supplies of diesel, personnel, and medication, and have power restored as soon as possible. In addition, I have heard from dialysis providers who are struggling to get fresh water and diesel into Puerto Rico because an inconsistent flight schedule is making it difficult to time the delivery of its shipments. To that end, I ask you to coordinate with other federal agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration, to help these supplies get to where they are most needed.
The actions mentioned above only scratch the surface of what needs to be done. I urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to act before more people die and this becomes a full-blown crisis.