Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and a dozen other Democratic senators have called on the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to take steps necessary to ensure the situation impacting 3.5 million Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands "does not become a full-blown public health crisis."
The Senators sent a letter to Acting Secretary Don Wright, saying that "even before Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the U.S. territories, the islands' health care system was suffering from the ongoing economic crisis."
The letter encouraged the HHS to deploy individuals trained in disaster management of health care systems to coordinate with local officials and the U.S. military.
The coordination would be targeted at finding how to best meet the needs of the various health care providers, ensure efficient distribution of resources, and rapidly respond to the islands' shifting health care needs.
The lawmakers said it was imperative to do all that can be done to avoid a large-scale public health crisis.
At least 90 percent of Puerto Rico remains without power. Food and drinking water remain in short supply.