A growing crisis in Puerto Rico for dialysis patients
A week after Hurricane Maria slammed into the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm, the 5,600 Americans on the island who depend on dialysis are facing a life-threatening crisis.
The crisis in Puerto Rico is different from what we saw with Harvey and Irma. With the island’s infrastructure badly damaged, water and electricity are in short supply. The Puerto Rico power grid is badly damaged, and the island doesn’t currently have the capacity to produce clean water. Dialysis clinics are fighting just to stay open—they cannot operate without water and power. Each day, clinics need thousands of gallons of clean, potable water; they use this water to make dialysate, the fluid in a dialysis machine. They need electricity to power the dialysis machines and other equipment.
Without operational dialysis clinics, individuals with kidney failure are facing a precarious situation, because they need treatment three times a week to survive. Many dialysis facilities are operating on generators and relying on water deliveries from off -island, but the situation is extremely difficult for everyone involved. The dialysis clinic employees who are working in Puerto Rico right now are undertaking heroic measures just to keep their clinics open, because for dialysis patients who cannot get treatment, this is a matter of life and death.
As part of the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) coalition which coordinates the efforts of dialysis providers, relief agencies, and the regional U.S. ESRD Networks, AKF is tracking developments on the ground. The KCER coalition holds regular update conference calls to assess conditions and develop lifesaving strategies to assist the thousands of dialysis patients affected by this disaster.
AKF’s own Disaster Relief Program is 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 need help in the coming weeks and months. We are coordinating with KCER to get AKF financial assistance to these patients.
We are grateful for the generosity of the many individuals, corporations, associations and foundations that have contributed to our Disaster Relief Program, and we are sending 100% of donations out to dialysis patients in need. Our goal is to raise enough funds to be able to provide emergency assistance to every dialysis patient who needs it. This aid allows them to buy medicine, food, and other essentials after losing so much.
For more information about our disaster relief efforts or to donate to our Disaster Relief Program, please go to KidneyFund.org/disaster-relief.
Mike Spigler is vice president of patient services and kidney disease education for the American Kidney Fund.