Floating hospital off hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico mostly empty
A floating state-of-the-art hospital is anchored off the coast of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, but those in need are struggling to board the ship.
The Navy hospital ship Comfort has 250 beds for patients on the island shut out by clinics without supplies and other facilities lacking electricity.
But only 33 of those beds — about 13% — have been filled in the two weeks since the ship arrived, CNN reported.
“I know we have the capacity,” the Comfort’s mission commander and Capt. Kevin Robinson told the news station. “I know that we have the capability to help. What the situation on the ground is . . . that’s not in my lane to make a decision.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told CNN the problem is rooted in “the communication flow” between doctors and the territory’s Department of Health, which is tasked with referring patients to the ship. Hospitals said they were unaware what standards patients need to meet in order to board the medical facility.
“I asked for a complete revision of that so that we can start sending more patients over there,” Rossello said.
The hospital ship was deployed as part of the federal response to Hurricane Maria, which left the 3.4 million American citizens on the U.S. territory without power. Residents also face water and food shortages as well as ongoing health risks.
Almost a month after the hurricane made landfall as a Category 4 storm, 86% of Puerto Rico is still without electricity and nearly 30% of residents do not have access to drinking water. Most cell towers and antennas are also still down.
The hospital did welcome one new patient Saturday — a baby girl who was born on the ship.
“I never thought that our special moment would happen here on this ship,” Sara’s father, Francisco Llull Vera, said in a statement Sunday. “Everyone has been so helpful and gentle while caring for our baby. I hope this opens the door for those who still need help to seek out the Comfort.”
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