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Puerto Rico Governor's Newsletter October 2017

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Jose Lozada-Costas, MD, FACP, ACP Governor

Jose Lozada-Costas, MD, FACP, ACP Governor

Dear Colleagues:

I have no words to express my sorrow at the devastation Hurricane Maria visited upon our Island. I hope all of you and your families are safe. I know few of you will have immediate access to this communication, but I hope that will improve in the coming days.

I also want to thank the many of you who have bravely and selflessly continued to provide health care to your patients in these difficult times.

Throughout this difficult period I have remained in contact with the leadership of the American College of Physicians, and they have been incredibly supportive. They realize that besides access to medications and supplies, our biggest problems are access to fuel, both for power plants and transportation, and communication, particularly with some of the hardest-hit parts of Puerto Rico. Know that all 152,000 of our fellow members are thinking of us and our patients' plight.

I want to share the ACP's official communication with all of you:

Washington, September 28, 2017 —The American College of Physicians (ACP) today sent a letter urging President Trump '"to consider taking additional actions to provide immediate assistance and relief to the American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands currently recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria." Sent by Jack Ende, MD, MACP, president of ACP, on behalf of the 152,000-member organization, the letter acknowledges and expresses appreciation for the administration’s decision to temporarily waive the Jones Act for Puerto Rico, which will help alleviate shortages of basic necessities on the island, as well as the decision to deploy needed military resources to the island.  Yet ACP recommended that President Trump and his administration work with Congress to provide additional resources to address an urgent public health crisis on the islands. 

"A millions continue to live without reliable access to food, water, fuel, and electricity, we ask that you consider taking additional actions, as recommended in this letter, to accelerate and improve the response and recovery on the ground, and prevent the situation from turning into an even greater public health and humanitarian crisis," Dr. Ende continued.
 
Dr. Ende noted that ACP is not an expert on how best to provide the necessary recovery assistance. However, he pointed out six steps that have been recommended by those with such expertise that merit consideration:
 
  • Work with Congress to make available increased emergency dollars for FEMA to engage in immediate relief efforts. Ensure that FEMA designates all of Puerto Rico's municipalities as having federal disaster declaration status.
  • Deploy additional resources, including increased assistance from the military, to help avert the emerging public health disaster in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands. Priority should be given to restoring the ability of hospitals and physicians to provide needed medical care.
  • Increase Medicaid funding to Puerto Rico.
  • Work with Congress and HHS to provide increased funding to prevent another Zika outbreak like Puerto Rico saw in past years.
  • Ask federal agencies to help educate the public that Puerto Rico is not a foreign country and that the residents of Puerto Rico are United States citizens.
  • Partner with ACP and other medical organizations to facilitate disaster recovery.
 
ACP already has begun promoting hurricane relief resources to its membership and invites the Trump administration to partner with ACP and other medical organizations on how they can most effectively help, such as by identifying volunteer opportunities for ACP members and serving as a clearinghouse for information.
 
"As each day passes without adequate access to basic necessities and health care services, the public health crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will continue to become more dire," Dr. Ende concluded.  "We respectfully urge your administration to consider taking additional actions to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis threatening the lives and livelihood of millions of American citizens affected by Hurricane Maria."

We are not alone, and we can get over this. I have limited access to email, but those of you who can, please feel free to send me your concerns, and I'll see how I can help in getting them addressed.

Wishing you all the best, and a prompt recovery for our home,

Jose A. Lozada-Costas, MD, FACP
Governor, Puerto Rico Chapter