VIEQUES, P.R. — A newborn’s cries rarely echo anymore though the hallways of what passes as a hospital on the ravaged island of Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico. “We miss it,” said Dennisse Bermúdez Colón, a nurse. Hurricane Maria closed the island’s only labor and delivery room, forcing expectant mothers to travel, usually by sea, to the big island eight miles away to have their babies. Just a few emergency births have taken place in an old storm shelter converted into a provisional clinic. Nearly 18 months after the storm, the temporary arrangement feels increasingly permanent. The original hospital remains a shuttered wreck of rust and mold, home to the occasional rooster and a band of wild horses whose droppings litter the empty parking lot and ambulance bay. “If they keep doing nothing, the hospital will get more deteriorated,” Isabel Encarnación Nazario, 65, lamented on a recent morning as she picked up a lab-work kit for her ailing 90-year-old mother from the makeshift clinic. The languishing Vieques hospital is one of many places where rebuilding has stagnated nearly a year and a half after the ruinous September 2017 hurricane. Repairs have yet to begin, slowed by disagreements over… Read full this story
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