October 11, 2017
Nurses are calling out Congress on America's failed response to the disaster in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria.
In a letter to all members of Congress today, National Nurses United, whose disaster relief organization has placed 50 volunteer RNs on the ground in Puerto Rico, is pressing Congress to “take immediate action to prevent a further public health calamity in Puerto Rico”. “The response to the crisis in Puerto Rico from the U.S. federal government has been unacceptable for the wealthiest country in the world,” wrote NNU RN Co-Presidents Deborah Burger and Jean Ross, citing eyewitness accounts by RNs on the ground, and the ongoing crisis of lack of water, food, and other emergencies faced by the island’s 3.5 million residents. Among conditions our RNs witness, NNU notes, are:
Making matters worse, NNU added, it was reported today that $5 billion of a supplemental relief package has been earmarked as “a loan” that Puerto Rico must pay back, “an unconscionable gift to the banks at the expense of the people in Puerto Rico facing calamity,” Burger said.
“Congress’s emergency supplemental appropriations bill for Puerto Rico must fully fund the immediate recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, invest in critical infrastructure such as the electric grid and roads, and grant all Puerto Ricans immediate eligibility for Medicaid and ensure that the federal government provides equitable healthcare funding to make sure that each person in Puerto Rico receive the care they need in the midst of this public health crisis,” wrote Burger and Ross. Fully three weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, RN volunteers have described dire conditions and countless number of residents still in desperate need for assistance amid a federal relief effort that has failed to reach many people in need. NNU’s RN Response Network dispatched 50 volunteer RNs to Puerto Rico a week ago, part of an AFL-CIO multi-union deployment. The RNs have been sending in frequent reports about the devastation and ongoing crisis that remains at a perilous stage. Two reports from yesterday are continuing testimony: "Today our team traveled into the center of island into the mountain towns of Utuado. These towns are isolated that relief efforts have not made it into these areas. It was due to impassable roads. But the local community cleared most of the roads. People said we were the first relief group to come into the area. But she is unable to get out. And they’re having a hard time getting food and water. Yes, her son is staying with her. He cares for her but is also sick. They’re struggling to get basics such as food, water and medicine." – Roxanna Garcia, RN “Yesterday we went to Utuado, a town up in the center of the island. We stopped many times along the way to educate people on water safety. It’s a mountain community with small pueblos all over, many cut off since Maria by fallen bridges and blocked roads. We stopped in the center of town at the National Guard. They had lists of all the areas that had been seen by medical groups. We went to an area that nobody had visited where roads were recently opened. People are somehow surviving with the food and medicine they had on hand. They have received NO provisions. There is no running water and no electricity. Nobody is aware of the risks of drinking untreated water. We went house-to-house teaching families and asking that they spread the word. We also provided urgent care where we could. These communities are at great risk of water born illness epidemics. They need clean water that is safe to drink! There is a public health crisis coming to Puerto Rico that we could prevent with proper supplies and support from the US government. These conditions would not be tolerated in the 50 states. It is outrageous that we are leaving our fellow Americans with essentially no aid. Many more will die if we don't step up.” – Erin Carrera, RN