Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday sent a letter similar to one sent by his Democratic colleague urging more federal help for Puerto Rico, still darkened by the ravishes of Hurricane Maria more than three weeks ago.
Rubio asked U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric Hargan to “provide a complete update and assessment of the public health concerns still plaguing Puerto Rico,” and expressed concern “that there has not been enough progress on a plan to provide a long-term solution so patients and officials are not constantly struggling with one crisis after another.”
Earlier Friday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson announced he sent a similar letter to Hargan, warning that people were dying in Puerto Rico and federal assistance had to be accelerated before more people die.
As did Nelson, Rubio cited news accounts warning of horrific public health crises emerging. He asked Hargan to take aggressive action to help them.
“In light of the island’s damaged infrastructure and its residents’ lack of access to power and clean water, it is critical that the island receives the resources needed to properly treat people who depend on medically necessary services,” Rubio wrote. “Many Floridians contact my office every day to emphasize that their family and friends in Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from this deadly storm.
“There are news reports that some water in Puerto Rico has been contaminated, causing people to contract leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can cause kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and death,” Rubio continued. “I am very concerned that there could be additional cases of leptospirosis or other bacterial infections, and that the island’s lack of resources could prevent those infected from receiving necessary treatment.”
Both Nelson and Rubio called attention to the dearth of operating dialysis centers and oxygen supplies, with Rubio saying he has heard personally from providers and officials that it is incredibly difficult to get supplies. Rubio acknowledged that progress has been made, but said he was concerned there has not been enough progress on long-term solutions for patients. He requested a complete update and assessment on public health issues in Puerto Rico.
He also said, “I also urge you to immediately clarify the conflicting information reported by government officials and media outlets.”