The Storm Has Passed, But Puerto Rico's Health Faces Prolonged Recovery

Kaiser Health News, October 17, 2017

The situation in Puerto Rico’s health system is far more vulnerable than those in Texas or Florida, which also weathered hurricanes this fall.

Hurricane Maria

Dr. Sandra Alvarez gives Mercedes Perez a health care checkup in her apartment at the Pedro America Pagan de Colon assisted living facility in San Juan in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Members of the First Medical Relief team visited the complex and said the residents need water, and many are hungry and need their medication, which is difficult to get. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

This article first appeared October 16, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Carmen Heredia Rodriguez and Rachel Bluth

As President Donald Trump signals impatience to wind down emergency aid to Puerto Rico, the challenges wrought by Hurricane Maria to the health of Puerto Ricans and the island’s fragile health system are in many ways just beginning.

Three weeks after that direct hit, nearly four dozen deaths are associated with the storm. But the true toll on Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents is likely to involve sickness and loss of life that will only become apparent in the coming months and in indirect ways.

As victims continue to be found and stranded people reached, it will take time to assess the consequences of their missed care or undertreatment.

The situation in Puerto Rico’s health system is far more vulnerable than those in Texas or Florida, which also weathered hurricanes this fall — medically, economically and politically. A month after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, only about half of the final official fatalities had been tallied.

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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