Sick Puerto Ricans suffer as naval hospital ship sits mostly empty—nobody knows how to get to it
Only about 13 percent of the USNS Comfort's hospital beds are being utilized.
18 October, 2017
This is just sad reporting from CNN:
Sammy Rolon is living in a makeshift clinic set up at a school. He has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and is bedridden. He's waiting for surgery that was scheduled before Hurricane Maria smashed into Puerto Rico. Now, he can't even get the oxygen he needs.
There is help available for the 18-year-old -- right offshore. A floating state-of-the-art hospital, the USNS Comfort, could provide critical care, his doctor says.
But nobody knows how to get him there. And Sammy is not alone.
The US Comfort hospital ship was deployed much later than it should have been but even though it's been in Puerto Rico about two weeks now, it's only at 13 percent capacity (33 of 250 beds being used).
Unfortunately, that's just the tip of the iceberg for the challenges facing the U.S. territory. The AP reports that people are bathing in contaminated water and some are even drinking from contaminated streams.
With hundreds of thousands of people still without running water, and 20 of the island’s 51 sewage treatment plants out of service, there are growing concerns about contamination and disease.
“People in the U.S. can’t comprehend the scale and scope of what’s needed,” said Drew Koslow, an ecologist with the nonprofit Ridge to Reefs who recently spent a week in Puerto Rico working with a portable water purification system.
Meanwhile, thousands of Puerto Ricans are fleeing the island without plans to return.
As of Friday, 83 percent of the island still lacked electricity. At night, most Puerto Ricans are living in the dark and the lights aren't expected to go back on for many until December.
The government’s timeline for fixing the grid calls for 30 percent of the island to be electrified by the end of October, 50 percent by mid-November, and 80 percent by Dec. 1.
And logistics aren't the problem, they're just the excuse, says San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto.
Many officials, including the Puerto Rican governor, have justified FEMA’s slow response on the island since Maria hit by pointing to logistical issues, including road damage and port closures.
“That is the most ludicrous, ridiculous, offensive explanation,” Cruz Soto said of the explanation. “The most powerful country in the world cannot get supplies to [an island that is] 100 miles by 35 miles wide? They don’t want to get the supplies there. That’s a different story. How have I been able to get to these towns? I take my trucks, if there’s a tree in the way we get it out and move it out of the way, we push on.”
Cruz Soto said many organizations and people are doing great work, including officials from FEMA, but she compared the federal government's failing response to "genocide."
"But why would you systematically deny food and water and medication to a group of people?,” Cruz Soto continued. “It’s close to genocide. And I know it’s a strong word but it is close to genocide.”
In a Huffington Post video, Cruz Soto added, "We have to get food, we have to get water, or else we are being condemned to a slow death."
This is the response for which Donald Trump is giving himself an "A-plus."