More than a year after Hurricane Maria destroyed their medical center, patients on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques will once again be able to receive life-saving dialysis treatment for kidney disease close to home.
On Thursday, the government of Puerto Rico said a $2.9 million mobile dialysis unit had been brought to the island of about 9,000 people. Since September 2017, when Maria raked the U.S. territory, dialysis patients in Vieques had to embark on a 10-12 hour journey by car and airplane to Puerto Rico’s big island to receive treatment.
Puerto Rico’s Health Department said it would likely be a few days before the dialysis unit, which was brought in from California, would be operating.
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The government said there are currently six people receiving dialysis on Vieques because the others moved to the big island or mainland United States so they could receive treatment.
“Kidney patients in Vieques will be able to receive dialysis in their community without having to travel to the big island or living at the homes of their relatives in other jurisdictions, as they have had to do this past year,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said in a statement. “This was a promise we had to keep to do justice to these patients who were living under vulnerable conditions.”
Patients and health advocates had criticized the government for dragging its feet on finding a solution for the dialysis patients. And locals blamed the grueling trip for the untimely death of at least a handful of dialysis patients.