• The Star Staff

FEMA obligates $5.6 million for repairs to island healthcare facilities

By John McPhaul


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has injected $5.6 million into the Puerto Rico Department of Health for the repair of health facilities throughout the island.

The improvement plans range from diagnostic and treatment centers to laboratories and public health units in six municipalities.

The funds, approved this year, add to the total of about $8 million that FEMA has awarded to the Health Department so far for 14 permanent repair projects to strengthen the island’s health sector.

“With these funding obligations we contribute to the rehabilitation of various facilities of Puerto Rico’s public health system around the island to facilitate the accessibility of these essential services to all citizens,” said José Baquero Tirado, the federal disaster recovery coordinator for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Among the recent obligations is a $1.2 million grant for the Mayagüez Pediatric Center, which has an epidemiology office. The facility that houses the center also houses other offices that provide services to citizens such as the WIC Program, the Demographic Registry, the Biosecurity Office, and the Emergency Management Office, among others. The improvements include mitigation measures to reinforce the windows, doors and roof of the building to prevent similar damage in future disasters.

“This federal assistance will give us the opportunity to improve the facilities of the Mayagüez Pediatric Center and keep operations in optimal condition to offer the quality of service that each patient deserves,” said island Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano. “The health of residents is our priority and a right that we must respect.”

Meanwhile, the Health Department’s hygiene laboratory in Arecibo, located in a historic building built in 1938, was awarded nearly $25,000. Those funds are destined for repairs to its bacteriological and chemical labs, among other work.

Likewise, funds were obligated for other health institutions to repair their facilities and mitigate risks. Among them are Adjuntas’ Diagnostic and Treatment Center, with about $2.5 million, as well as the Transitional Service Centers in Cayey and Ponce, with about $800,000 and $67,000, respectively.

“Our public health facilities in various sectors will benefit greatly from this assignment, at a time when we are confirming the relevance of the services they offer,” said Ottmar Chávez, executive director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3). “We thank the healthcare workers for their great support in these times and hope that this assignment fulfills the essential purpose of serving our citizens.”

To date, FEMA has obligated nearly $19.4 billion for costs related to hurricanes Irma and Maria, including projects to help rebuild infrastructure throughout Puerto Rico. FEMA works with COR3 through the agency’s Public Assistance program to obligate recovery funds to private nonprofit organizations, municipalities and agencies of the Puerto Rico government.

More information on Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria is available online at fema.gov/disaster/4339 and recuperacion.pr, and on the social networks Facebook.com/FEMAPuertoRico, Facebook.com/COR3pr and Twitter @COR3pr.

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