Health Dept. lacks personnel to inspect restaurants

By John McPhaul

The island Department of Health does not have enough staff to inspect restaurants, House Health Committee Chairman Juan Oscar Morales charged on Wednesday.

“The information I have is that there are very, very few [inspectors]. For all of Puerto Rico there are very few,” Morales said in a radio interview. “We are talking about 78 municipalities and I can tell you that there are not 78 inspectors. There are not half [that many].”

“I am going to wait for the secretary [Lorenzo González Feliciano] to answer the request we made yesterday because I want to be responsible and have them tell us themselves how many personnel the Health Department has for fulfilling its duties and responsibilities,” the legislator added.

González Feliciano, meanwhile, acknowledged to the same radio station that the existing Health Department staff are not enough to carry out the rigorous inspections.

“There are not enough staff,” the Health chief said. “The governor was asked to give the matter consideration and a message was sent to the Financial Oversight and Management Board to find out what information they need from the Department of Health or what explanation they need so that they recognize the need to recruit personnel for that division.”

González Feliciano said that for the moment, the Health Department has “made everything available to handle the COVID issue.”

The statements were made days after the Health Department intervened at the Latin Star restaurant in Condado for alleged violations of the COVID-19 executive order, and the inspection team observed serious public health irregularities -- some unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic protocols -- in the kitchen area.

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