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Published 11/1/2017

Post-Hurricane Maria: Many Ask, 'How Can I help?'

AAOS office of government relations offers suggestions
On Sept. 28, 2017, Hurricane Maria unleashed its Category 4 strength on Puerto Rico and unbridled devastation ensued, leaving much of the island in ruin. Now, a widescale humanitarian effort is managing the aftermath of the storm.

As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is similar yet unique when compared to the states. Nearly 3.5 million U.S. citizens live in Puerto Rico. As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans can travel without a passport to and from the continental United States. They're also protected by the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other federal rules and regulations. However, while Puerto Ricans can vote in presidential primaries, the island does not get electoral votes in general presidential elections and does not have voting representatives in Congress (similar to Washington, D.C.). Jenniffer González-Colón is the island's current nonvoting member of the U.S. House of Representatives. From a healthcare perspective, 68 percent of the Island's population—more than 2.37 million patients—receive their care through Medicare, Medicare Advantage, or Medicaid.

How to help
The AAOS office of government relations (OGR) offered the following suggestions for surgeons to help:

Contact Congress: On Oct. 4, 2017, the Trump Administration officially asked Congress for $29 billion in disaster aid to help Puerto Rico and other areas (the formal funding request must be made before Congress can act). House Speaker Paul Ryan has said Congress is working with the administration to ensure necessary resources get to the islands, but it is not immediately clear how and when the relief request will be taken up by legislators. The Academy asks members to call, email, and/or tweet their elected representatives and staff, expressing the need for quick action for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other areas impacted by the hurricanes.

Give: Funding is always an option, but before making donations, do your own research to make sure your dollars go as far as they possibly can in the right direction.

Equipment/Supplies: The University Pediatric Hospital in Puerto Rico (HOPU) is in need of life-saving items and medical supplies and is working with Fundación Hospital Pediatrico to coordinate donations. If able to make a donation, contact Beatriz Garcia (787-525-5467) or Karina Iglesias (787-644-6566). You can also contact Dr. Jorge Zequeira of the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine at 787-403-9370 or jorge.zequeira@upr.edu. For more information on Fundación Hospital Pediatrico, visit www.fundacionhospitalpediatrico.org.

If you have questions or concerns, contact the AAOS OGR at dc@asos.org.