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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Lawmakers call for urgent action at Río Piedras Medical Center

Rep. Sol Higgins, chairwoman of the Health Committee in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives

By The Star Staff

The chairpersons of the Government and Health committees in the island House of Representatives, Jesús Manuel Ortiz and Sol Higgins, respectively, called on Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to take immediate action to address the critical situation at the Río Piedras Medical Center.

They are also requesting that the Puerto Rico Medical Services Administration (ASEM by its Spanish acronym) submit a contingency plan in cases of emergency and electrical emergencies by today.

Wire service Cybernews, meanwhile, reported on Monday that the University Hospital spent 16 hours without electricity before power was restored by morning, although Health Secretary Dr. Carlos Mellado López confirmed that contingency plans were activated and no patient had been at risk.

“A few days ago, we visited the facilities of the Medical Center. What we saw there [...] reiterates the critical state of the facilities and how this impacts the availability of personnel and the essential services provided there,” Higgins said. “We must carry out actions to address this reality with the urgency it requires. Specifically because of this urgency, we formally request that the executive director of ASEM submit ASEM’s Contingency Plan for Emergencies within 24 hours, including an Emergency Plan against electrical contingencies. It is intolerable and unsustainable that the primary hospital center on the island cannot offer the services the people need when they need it most.”

Higgins added that “it is at times like these that we have to reevaluate each budget item in ASEM and the Medical Center to ensure that the medical services of our primary hospital center are of quality and priority is given to the health professionals and their work environment.”

To begin addressing the crisis that the Medical Center is experiencing, the lawmakers recommended that the governor declare a state of emergency with regard to the infrastructure of the Medical Center to simplify the allocation of resources and make it possible to start work and purchase the necessary equipment. They also recommended reassessing the organization and functioning of ASEM to establish a new structure if necessary and accelerate the reallocation of resources to finance salary increases for staff and improve their working conditions.

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