Puerto Rico Doctors Are Performing Surgery By Flashlight Over A Month After Hurricane Maria Hit
Over the weekend, Alejandro García Padilla, the former governor of Puerto Rico, tweeted a photo of doctors performing surgery illuminated only by flashlight — and condemned Donald Trump and his administration for their response to Puerto Rican hurricane relief.
The photograph features three doctors in a dark operating room that is subtly illuminated with cell phone flashlights. Padilla captioned the photo, "This is what POTUS calls a 10! Surgery performed with cellphones as flashlights in Puerto Rico today."
The photo reflects a tragic and very scary reality in Puerto Rico — that, over a month after Hurricane Maria directly hit the island, 84 percent of the territory is still without power. This lack of electricity has, among other things, caused a significant public health crisis in Puerto Rico.
In addition to leaving hospitals and medical facilities with limited electrical resources, the lack of power in Puerto Rico is also causing a health crisis due to much of the population's lack of access to clean water. As Vox explained, a lack of electricity means that there is no way to pump water into homes, leaving people with few options for bathing, flushing toilets, or even cooking. If people rely on an electric burner for boiling, then not having electricity precludes them from heating water acquired outside the home to make it safe for consumption.
Moreover, Vox also noted that the dual lack of access to water and electricity has made Puerto Ricans much more susceptible to acquiring a variety of medical conditions and diseases, including dehydration and leptospirosis, a bacterial disease contracted by drinking contaminated water that is already spreading in the territory.
Slate further reported that an additional health risk caused by lack of electricity is a lack of communication. For example, last week The Wall Street Journal noted that while emergency food and medical supplies are available to assist Puerto Ricans, many simply do not know where to go to acquire them, since there is little communication available on the island.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said last week that some of Puerto Rico's municipalities weren't aware that food and water supplied by FEMA was available at distribution centers. Moreover, the outlet also reported that the USNS Comfort, a medical ship with the capacity to treat 250 patients, arrived in Puerto Rico weeks ago, but only 33 of its beds are full as of last Tuesday. Slate noted that many people do not even know about the existence of the ship due to that lack of communication.
The United States and President Donald Trump have been condemned by many in Puerto Rico for what some people believe is an insufficient response to the crisis. While Trump reportedly thinks that the administration's crisis response has been a "10," others feel quite differently. Padilla, the former governor, evidently made it clear via his sharing of the aforementioned photo that the U.S. response is not up-to-par.
San Juan's mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz also she would call Trump's crisis response "a 10 out of a scale of 100 ... still a failing grade."
Members of Congress have also admonished Trump's response and cited the continued lack of electricity as an indicator that relief has been insufficient. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, has called on Trump to appoint a Puerto Rico recovery chief to oversee the island's recovery efforts.
Overall, Padilla's photo of surgeons operating in near darkness in a Puerto Rican hospital very clearly and powerfully illustrates that the island still has a long way to go when it comes to recovering from Hurricane Maria — and that the Trump administration needs to step up its relief efforts.