Over 5,600 Americans in Puerto Rico with end stage renal disease (ESRD) who depend on dialysis to survive are facing a life-threatening situation in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Electricity and water are in short supply, and there has been a lack of needed fuel, potable water and supplies reaching people and facilities on the island. Dialysis centers need electricity to power their equipment and some are running low on diesel fuel to power their generators; they also need clean potable water to dialyze their patients. And many patients and workers in dialysis centers lack fuel for their cars to get there. It is a life and death situation for these patients who need dialysis three times a week to survive.
The American Kidney Fund (AKF) has been engaged in an effort to raise awareness in Congress on the dire situation for dialysis patients in Puerto Rico. AKF released a statement on the crisis and has sent information about the situation on the ground to House and Senate leadership and key committee staff, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as well as the House Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Senate Finance Committees. We have also been in regular contact with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Ways and Means Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA). All three members have spoken publicly or released statements about the crisis facing dialysis patients. Sen. Schumer outlined the emergency situation in a series of tweets, Rep. Hoyer called for swift legislative action and assistance at a press conference, and Rep. Neal released a statement urging immediate action by the Administration and Congress.
AKF’s congressional outreach is one part of our disaster relief efforts to help dialysis patients affected by Hurricane Maria. AKF’s Disaster Relief Program has been working to provide emergency financial assistance to dialysis patients who have evacuated from Puerto Rico to the mainland, as well as those patients who remain in Puerto Rico and will need help in the coming weeks and months. The aid provided will help patients buy medicine, food, and other essentials after losing so much. Our Disaster Relief Program has also helped dialysis patients impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma—to date, we have helped nearly 2,000 patients affected by those earlier disasters.
The urgent situation for dialysis patients in Puerto Rico is getting more attention, but lots more needs to be done. AKF will continue to do our part to raise awareness, raise money, and help patients. For more information on our efforts, please see our disaster relief page.