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Internists Urge President Trump to ‘Consider Taking Additional Actions’ to Provide Relief in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

Letter offers solutions to prevent situation from becoming greater public health crisis

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. 

“As 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.”

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The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 152,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.

Contact: David B. Kinsman, APR  202-261-4554, DKinsman@acponline.org