• The San Juan Daily Star

Vieques gets a long-awaited ‘first-class’ health center

More than 9,000 Vieques residents now have a new primary and preventive health clinic with a wide array of medical services available.

By John McPhaul

More than 9,000 residents of the island municipality of Vieques now have a new primary and preventive health clinic with pediatricians; gynecology and behavioral health services; an oral health area with “state of the art” equipment; health education, nutrition and vaccination services; a clinical laboratory; internal medicine clinics; and a modern optician with an optometrist.

The opening of the clinic was announced Thursday by HealthproMed Executive Director Ivonne Rivera Hernández, along with Vieques Mayor José “Junito” Corcino Acevedo, who were surrounded by community leaders and government officials.

HealthproMed is a private, non-profit organization that is part of the primary medical services network of the United States government and operates under Section 330 of the federal Public Health Service Act. HealthproMed clinics are classified as Federally Qualified Health Centers, receive a funding grant from the U.S. Bureau of Primary Health, and are protected under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

“Starting today Viequenses will have a modern primary and preventive health center for which we have not spared in the investment of $1.5 million, and additionally, the donation of $300,000 from Direct Relief,” Rivera Hernández said. “With these federal funds, we purchased and remodeled these new facilities that employ 25 health and clinical support professionals. We thank the municipal administration, its mayor and the resident commissioner, the Honorable Jenniffer González [Colón], for their support and participation. Viequenses deserve to have a first-class facility, five stars, and today it is a fact to improve their quality of life.”

Corcino said “the municipal administration will continue to support HealthproMed for its great commitment to the health of the more than 9,000 residents of Vieques and the floating population.”

“Eighty percent of the population of our island are beneficiaries of the Puerto Rico government health plan, Vital, who in most cases had to move to the island to receive specialized services,” the mayor said. “Now with this new facility they will obtain more clinical services, such as eye and dental health. This primary and preventive health clinic becomes the community health center for the Viequenses. Vieques has never had a health center at this level and HealthproMed has made it a reality.”

For her part, González Colón said “one of my priorities is that everyone in Puerto Rico have access to health services.”

“From Congress I have worked and joined forces demanding compensation for Viequenses and for access to more first-class services such as those inaugurated today under the direction of HealthproMed,” the resident commissioner said. “This entity, which has other facilities in San Juan, Culebra, Carolina and Guaynabo for which we have supported allocations of over $30 million in federal funds, is part of the so-called 330 centers, non-profit and community-based corporations that provide primary and preventive health care regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. We believe in the mission of 330 centers like this one and we continue to support them as they have become allies of several of our communities such as Vieques.”

Ivonne Rodríguez Wiewall, the executive adviser of Direct Relief, noted that “Direct Relief’s mission focuses on improving the quality of life and health of vulnerable people affected in the event of an emergency or due to poverty.”

“In addition, Direct Relief has assisted Puerto Rico in various initiatives that directly impact health services. … The donation of over $300,000 was invested in the acquisition of oral health equipment, equipment to reinforce the clinical laboratory area, acquisition of refrigerators for the protection of vaccines, vehicles to transport patients and personnel of the center, as well as a power generator that will guarantee the continuity of health services in the clinic. Seeing this center completed is one of Direct Relief’s great achievements.”

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