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Democratic lawmakers urge FEMA to help rebuild Vieques, Puerto Rico hospital
Published Wednesday, May 15, 2019 5:00 am
by Caribbean Business

Democratic lawmakers urge FEMA to help rebuild Vieques, Puerto Rico hospital

Say action needed immediately to make island-municipality’s single medical care center operational

SAN JUAN – U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) sent a letter Wednesday to the acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Peter Gaynor, requesting information about problems with the agency’s provision of disaster aid to help rebuild the only hospital on Vieques, Puerto Rico after it was shuttered in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

Joining the senators and congresswoman in sending the letter to “better understand the steps” FEMA is taking “to ensure that Vieques residents have access to a working hospital” were Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), as well as Reps. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), José Serrano (D-N.Y.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Saying that Vieques experienced “extensive delays in accessing electricity, housing, and medical care in the wake of the storm,” and that “according to recent reports — the hospital ‘remains a shuttered wreck of rust and mold,” leaving the 9,000 U.S. citizens living on the island to rely on a ‘temporary facility’ that ‘still lacks the ability to perform key medical procedures,'” the members of Congress requested responses to their questions no later than June 5.

The letter’s authors referenced “disturbing reports of delays in medical care and well-documented harrowing trips that Viequenses must take to the Puerto Rico mainland to obtain care,” and that Puerto Rican officials “allege that Vieques ‘secured a commitment,’ in writing, ‘from FEMA more than a year ago to rebuild the hospital.'” However, they added, “according to new reports, FEMA still has ‘not decided’ whether the hospital needs” to be rebuilt.

“Vieques residents are U.S. citizens. Like all U.S. citizens, they need and deserve access to high-quality health services–not temporary medical facilities that cannot provide care to patients in need,” the lawmakers wrote. “Vieques has already faced extensive delays in disaster aid, and it is essential that FEMA take all necessary steps to help the island rebuild its medical infrastructure.”

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Acting Administrator Gaynor,

We write to request information about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) efforts to reconstruct the only hospital in Vieques, the “ravaged