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Intersection: Health Needs In Puerto Rico After Maria

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Damage from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Photo: Puerto Rico National Guard by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos

How is Puerto Rico doing three weeks after Hurricane Maria blasted the island?

Power is being restored, but slowly. As of mid-week, more than 80 percent of Puerto Ricans still do not have electricity. Less than a quarter of cell phone sites are back up and running, so communication is still difficult.

Citizens are having problems getting clean water, food and other essentials. So what does this all mean for the most vulnerable residents, the elderly and sick?

Florida Hospital doctors Katia Lugo and Julian Trevino who spent a week over in Puerto Rico seeing what the health needs are in the aftermath of Maria, and Orlando Sentinel reporter Bianca Padro Ocasio, who was on the island reporting about daily life for residents, joined Intersection to talk about the health needs in Puerto Rico after Maria.

Dr. Lugo said the biggest problem is health care access and some hospitals are only running on one generator. She went to Aguadilla hospital, and they were about to close because they had no running water and ran out of diesel for their generator. The temperature while working in the emergency room was 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Imagine being sick in those conditions, the patients were dying because of the temperature,” she said. “The majority were dying from heat stroke on top of what they were suffering.”

Dr. Trevino said people in Puerto Rico are facing something similar that happened when Florida was hit by Hurricane Irma. Trevino said there were patients stuck at home for two to three days before they could make it to the hospital, but in Puerto Rico it’s worse.

“It was a little bit worse than when we arrived in Puerto Rico as the patients were stuck at home for one week or a week and a half and then finally they would make it to the hospital,” he said.

Orlando Sentinel’s Bianca Padro Ocasio said there are a lot of towns without any communication, and some people who are able to will go into San Juan, Puerto Rico to get information out about the towns they live in.

“It’s been very inspiring to see how people are taking this into their own hands and reporting their own truth and their own story,” she said.



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