PUERTO RICO (NewsNation Now) — Despite 9,000 American citizens living on the island of Vieques off Puerto Rico, the island has not fully recovered from Hurricane Maria.
There’s no longer a hospital on the island and even getting there by boat is difficult.
NewsNation correspondent Brian Entin nearly didn’t make it onto one of the few ferries to the island until he revealed he was there to cover the slow recovery effort.
A taxi driver told NewsNation the fact that there isn’t a functional hospital stresses her out.
“You have to have it on your mind constantly. You have to watch what you eat, what you do, how you move in the island,” said Angie Adams Perres.
The hospital on Vieques was severely damaged and abandoned after Hurricane Maria devastated the island almost four years ago.
On the gate — a sign hangs — that says “Vieques lives matter.”
Kathy Gannett has lived on the island for 22 years. She’s shocked it’s taken this long for the island to recover.
“I didn’t think four years later we would be waiting for basic services. Basic human rights like an emergency room. A good staff to staff that er. And our lives are at risk,” said Gannett.
A temporary, makeshift emergency room has been set up in a hurricane shelter with X-rays and dialysis done in trailers.
Residents said sometimes there isn’t even a doctor there.
“We don’t get good care in the emergency room. We have had many cases where people have died because they didn’t get the proper care,” explained Gannett.
13-year-old Jaideliz Moreno Ventura died after first showing up with flu symptoms earlier this year.
She fought for her life for hours, but her attorney says the makeshift emergency room on Vieques lacked the medical equipment needed to save her life.
“Jaideliz’s death has been a spur for an enormous amount of movement and change to get the hospital built in Vieques. Her family is devastated but unrelenting,” said attorney Linda Backiel.
All trauma patients are flown off the island by helicopter or plane. FEMA allocated $39 million for a new hospital, but little progress has been made.