Surgeon general gives update on medical situation in Puerto Rico

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, gave the Gray Television Washington News Bureau an update Friday on the medical situation in Puerto Rico. Watch Kellie Meyer's full interview with him in the video box above.


KM: Tell us about some of the work that is being done to give Puerto Rico some relief in the time they’re going through right now.

JA: Well, first of all, I’d like to say that our hearts go out to the people of Puerto Rico that suffered an unimaginable tragedy. Here at HHS, we’re bringing the full array of resources to bear. I’m in charge of the United States Public Health Service. We have approximately 500 officers that have been deployed in response to both Irma and Maria. Another 300 who can be activated at a moments notice to go over there. We have rapid deployment forces who are helping the particularly vulnerable, dialysis patients, critical care patients, folks who really at risks for bad outcomes. We also have mental health teams that are going over there. We’ve got the applied public health teams, really we call them "Public Health Department In-A-Box" teams who are going to help with the response there. And we’ve also got social workers going over to help people who really just lost everything and really don’t know where to begin. That’s just from the United States Public Health Service. We’re working with all of our partners throughout HHS Office of Minority Health, Women’s Health is involved, really it’s all hands on deck as directed by the president and the secretary.

KM: What about the criticism that the Trump administration is getting for not acting quick enough? What would be your response to that?

JA: Well my response would be, we’re working as quickly as we can. We know that we’ll never be fast enough for us or for our fellow citizens who are in Puerto Rico who are suffering from this tragedy, however we’ve had folks on the ground since before the hurricane. We had 100 people who were on the ground and rode out the storm in Puerto Rico as part of the response, and we’ve been sending people over as quickly as we can afterwards. But again, I want to say we know it will never been fast enough. We’re continuing to try to improve our response, and we want to make sure we are doing right by our fellow citizens in the island of Puerto Rico.

KM: The Acting Homeland Security Secretary is getting some pushback comments saying that this is a good news story, but there are people who can’t get their insulin, people who are in hospitals not getting help, there’s a rapper Pitbull bringing in his own plane to get cancer patients out. So what more can the U.S. government do to help those citizens?

JA: This is truly an unprecedented situation, and what we’re trying to do is respond and continue to learn. I can tell you that here in the secretary’s operations center, we have folks working 24 hours around the clock to try to bring the full resources of the federal government to bear, and we’re going to continue to do that, and we’re going to continue to work with all of our partners to make sure not only are we doing everything we can right now, but we’re increasing our capacity to continue helping the people of Puerto Rico.

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