Hurricaned Hospitals and Stormy Support.

Personally, I don’t have the heart to keep watching the news – especially with all of the natural disasters going on. However, when I forced myself to tune in, I did see on the news was President Trump throwing rolls of paper towels into the crowd in Puerto Rico like t-shirts at a sporting event. After insulting the Mayor of San Juan’s leadership upon her asking him for aid. Considering the fact that Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory.

*sigh* So here we are.

I read an couple of articles recently about the infrastructural crisis that the hospitals in Puerto Rico are facing as a result of Hurricane Maria. Here is some of what they are up against:

  • As of October 6, 2017 25 out of 68 hospitals in Puerto Rico have power.
  • Electricity in some parts of the island won’t be restored for months. Without power, health care providers can’t refrigerate medications or sanitize equipment.
  • Generators are stretched thin.
  • Two patients on life support died because of the lack of fuel.
  • Standing water has left operating rooms unsafe.
  • There are saline shortages on the island and potential shortages in the mainland United States. This is because there is a large pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in Puerto Rico. Some health care entities are already feeling the effects.
  • The ill in the mountainous regions of Puerto Rico are lacking serious medical care due to the the roads being washed away.

I mean – this is a crisis. Kind of a big deal. And for the record: this is a United States problem. We have discussed infrastructural crises on The Neighborhood Bioethicist before and some of the issues they can create. But I want to pose some questions – if an infrastructural crises lead to public health crises, is there anything anyone can do proactively?  Or is the only option to be reactive?

I think these are crucial things to ask – especially because natural disasters are no ones fault. All you can do is predict them and do your best. But the effects are grave and the trauma to the community is very tangible and long-lasting. And if we want to claim the benefits of a community, we have to be willing to aid them. It seems that this Administration is more hesitant to aid the less visible and brown communities in the nation as a whole. Truthfully, whether it is because President Trump’s agenda is just to undo the Obama Era or if he genuinely believes that Puerto Rico is less deserving of support is not the most important point. The point is that there is an ethical responsibility to aid the entities the United States owns. Point blank.

In addition to this, I’m not sure how much of this particular crisis could’ve been handled proactively. And my apologies because I know no one wants to read a blog post with no “real answers”. However, I do think that it’s important that we learn about the effects of infrastructural crises reactively. We tend to think of destroyed homes, but not destroyed hospitals. We think about major cities in crisis, but not washed out roads in rural areas. We see disaster in the moment when it makes it to the news, but we forget about the decades of repair that come with the disaster. I think in these cases, awareness leads to preparedness. As we learn what really comes with these types of crises, we can lobby our communities to start raising funds to help and target the less mainstream areas in need. Just something to think about. If you have any thoughts about this topic or more information from being on the ground during the relief efforts, feel free to share below!

Until next time,

The Neighborhood Bioethicist

 

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SOURCES

Hennessy-Fiske, Molly. “She Was Covered in Insects and Unable to Walk: Doctors in Puerto Rico Only Now Discovering the Problems in Remote Towns.” Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2017. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-puerto-rico-remote-mountain-town-20171005-story.html.
“Hurricane Maria | FEMA.gov.” Accessed October 10, 2017. https://www.fema.gov/hurricane-maria?utm_source=hp_promo&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=disaster.
Khazan, Olga. “The Crisis at Puerto Rico’s Hospitals.” The Atlantic, September 26, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/09/the-crisis-at-puerto-ricos-hospitals/541131/.
McGinley, Laurie. “Hospitals Scramble to Avert Saline Shortage in Wake of Puerto Rico Disaster.” Washington Post, October 9, 2017, sec. To Your Health. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/10/09/hospitals-scramble-to-avert-saline-shortage-in-wake-of-puerto-rico-disaster/.
United States Department of Homeland Security. “FEMA Daily Operations Briefing,” September 26, 2017. https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/USDHSFEMA/2017/09/26/file_attachments/885868/FEMA%2BDaily%2BOps%2BBriefing%2B09-26-2017.pdf.

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