FEMA approves funds to rebuild hospital on Puerto Rican island

Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday approved $39.5 million to help an island off the coast of Puerto Rico rebuild its only hospital after damage caused by Hurricane Maria.

FEMA approved the funding after the Office of Management and Budget agreed to provide money to rebuild the Susan Centeno community health center based on the island of Vieques on its "replacement value."


"I am extremely happy funds have finally been obligated for the people of Vieques to have a proper medical facility," Puerto Rican Gov. Wanda Vazquez Garced said.

The facility, known locally as a CDT, historically lacked a formal "hospital" designation but was used as a clinic for veterans. It also provided the only labor delivery room on the island.

Two weeks ago, Jaideliz Moreno Ventura, 13, died because Vieques lacked proper medical equipment to treat her flu-like symptoms.

U.S. lawmakers had been pushing for FEMA to release aid to rebuild the hospital for months.

"It is tragic that this funding was not released until after we lost one young life due to inadequate medical service on Vieques. I'll continue watching to see that this project moves forward quickly," Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., said.


FEMA said Tuesday it has also obligated approximately $6 million for the temporary health facility currently operating in Vieques that will remain in operation until a permanent facility is available.

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