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Rossello Promises Universal Healthcare, Favors Eliminating Art. 103…Aguadilla Mayor Seeks More Homeland Security Aid…106 Jail Breaks In Past Year, 25 Inmates On Loose…Gov. Blamed For Decline Of Public Healthcare, She Addresses Deficiencies…Hernandez Mayoral: Poor Performers Among PDP Legislators…SEC Asks For Amendments To Political Financing Law…Treasury Incentive Plan Reaps $23.4M

Rossello Promises To Establish Universal Healthcare Plan

June 9, 2003
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

ARECIBO (AP) — Former Gov. Pedro Rossello asserted that should he be elected governor, he would seek to establish a universal healthcare plan for island residents.

He criticized the administration of Gov. Sila Calderon for taking away health reform benefits from 200,000 people because they allegedly didn’t qualify for such services.

Rossello, who is running against New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera to become the party’s gubernatorial candidate, stated that the best thing would be to establish a healthcare insurance system for all Puerto Ricans through legislation regardless of the economic scale.

Health Secretary Johnny Rullan has already said that Rossello’s ideal cannot be financed. Rullan said Rossello’s proposal would cost $300 million a month.

Rossello Favors Eliminating Article 103 Of The Penal Code

June 9, 2003
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Former governor and New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial pre-candidate Pedro Rossello said he favors eliminating article 103, which criminalizes same sex intercourse, from the penal code.

Rossello said in a televised interview "that intimate space for people should be sacred."

He also said that each individual "should express himself and behave as he pleases in his intimacy."

An ongoing evaluation of the penal code fails to eliminate the article which lesbian and gay community activists deem a violation of their human rights as the state should not interfere with their privacy.

Aguadilla Mayor Seeks Security Funds


June 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

DENVER -- Frustrated and angry over delays, a coalition of the nation's mayors asked federal officials on Sunday to bypass state governments and give them the money they need to beef up homeland security.

"I'm not asking for a handout, I'm asking for a partnership," Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson told Undersecretary of Homeland Security Michael Brown at the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Mayors had complained that states were skimming federal money for prevention, while they need it to equip and train police and firefighters who treat casualties.

Brown had to listen to a range of complaints from some of the 225 mayors attending the conference.

Mayor Carlos Mendez Martinez of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, said the federal government has virtually ignored its territories as a possible source of terrorism.

"I keep saying your back door is open. If we don't work with Puerto Rico, what security do we really have?" he asked Brown.

Brown said the Department of Homeland Security is still trying to determine where the nation is vulnerable.

"A threat anywhere in America is a threat everywhere in America," he said.

Corrections Department Reports 106 Jail Breaks Since July

June 8, 2003
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - There have been 106 jail breaks in Puerto Rico since the fiscal year began last July and more than two dozen escaped inmates remain at large, officials said.

Authorities have recaptured 81 inmates, Corrections Secretary Miguel Pereira said in a statement Saturday. However, Pereira did not identify the level of risk the remaining 25 pose to the public or what they were in prison for. Figures for the previous year were not immediately available.

Puerto Rico's prisons have faced criticism for regular escapes. On Dec. 30, five convicted murders used a hijacked helicopter in a daring escape from a prison in south-coast Ponce. All were recaptured by late January.

The U.S. Caribbean territory's 51 correctional facilities have room for 17,000 prisoners and currently hold about 15,000, officials said.

Ruiz Blames Gov. For Decline Of Public Healthcare Quality

June 8, 2003
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SAN JUAN (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Iris Miriam Ruiz blamed Gov. Sila Calderon's administration for the alleged decline in the quality of public healthcare services on the island.

Ruiz criticized Calderon for looking surprised at the complaints of a group of health reform beneficiaries.

"It is a great hypocrisy that Calderon pretends not to know, when she was the one who gave instructions to dismantle the health reform program," Ruiz said in a prepared statement.

The NPP legislator said the situation has gotten so bad that there aren't enough vaccines for 40% of infants in Puerto Rico.

Calderon Follows Up On Health Reform Deficiencies

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

June 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Obstacles to receiving medications for an extended period of time, the need to wait for authorization from the primary health provider as a requirement to get medical tests or prescriptions, limitations on medications for mental health conditions, and the inability to select one’s health provider were some of the complaints made by a group of health reform beneficiaries to Gov. Sila Calderon.

Calderon met Friday with a group of residents from Fajardo, Orocovis, Maricao, and other municipalities to find out the current circumstances for thousands of patients who receive medical services on the island.

During the meeting organized by the Patients Advocate Office, Naniqui Reyes Ocasio from Orocovis told Calderon that beneficiaries there don’t have access to medical emergency facilities unless they travel to the adjacent municipalities of Villalba or Jayuya.

"I had the blessing of taking care of three AIDS patients, and one of them had a kidney failure. When we got to the emergency room in Jayuya, there was no specialized equipment to assist him," said Reyes Ocasio.

She explained that Medical Emergencies requires that a patient be taken to an emergency room first, even if the facilities cannot assist the patient. After that, patients are allowed to visit a hospital.

Health Secretary Johnny Rullan, who also participated in the discussion, explained that there is a law that regulates those protocols and that the department is working on a bill to amend the statute. The bill also establishes a single working network to lesser the response time in emergency situations. In Puerto Rico, there are 700 ambulances, including private, government, and municipal vehicles.

Redemencio Rosario Rivera from Maricao praised Calderon for having a meeting with health reform patients and said there’s a need to establish medical facilities nearer to those patients residing in the center of the island.

He explained that his neighbors travel one hour to receive medical services, and that doesn’t even have a drugstore.

Calderon took advantage of the meeting to announce that the Patients Advocate Office has resolved 81% of complaints received and that the Health Department has opened 20 emergency rooms throughout the island.

Rullan added that his department has been assisting private medical operators and owners of diagnostic & treatment centers since the privatization, and has begun operations in some of the closed ones.

According to Calderon, there are 68 municipalities with emergency rooms offering services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The services cost nearly $25 million in addition to the health reform, which costs $1.2 billion annually.

The governor added that on July 1, mental health patients will be able to obtain a six-month refill for medications with physician approval.

In addition, she said will be paying attention to the anti-depressive Zypresa, which appears to be infrequently prescribed by health reform providers because of its high cost.

Calderon said maintenance prescriptions were also included in the refills initiative, but according to some patients, they still face problems with their primary health care providers, who insist on giving prescription in 15 day increments.

Some patients said this obliges patients to visit their doctor’s offices constantly. They said some doctors offer medication to patients in their offices, avoiding writing prescriptions or do not provide their license number, forcing patients to get medications at the drugstore affiliated with the medical group.

Calderon ordered Health Insurance Administrator Orlando Gonzalez to investigate the situation and promised to discuss the alleged violations with medical providers and insurance companies.

Gonzalez said all the alleged unethical practices mentioned are against the contract terms, and that his agency and the health insurance companies are required to enforce the established procedures.

In addition, Calderon instructed Rullan and Patients’ Advocate Luz Amador to develop an advertising campaign informing patients of their rights (the improvements due to the new three-year contracts with insurance companies); are to be disseminated among special communities residents.

Patients also complained about physicians charging $50 dollars for visiting elderly patient’s homes in those cases where the patient cannot visit the provider’s offices. In some cases, beneficiaries said physicians additionally charge Medicare and the health reform insurance.

Besides, beneficiaries argued specialized doctors face restrictions when ordering medical tests because the medical order requires the authorization the primary doctor; this delays the diagnosis and treatment process. Some patients also stressed the need to establish a protocol to assist handicapped patients, including minors receiving services at the Education Department.

Finally, Miguel Davila from Fajardo said there are fishermen who lost their medical insurance because the government identified a boat ownership as a luxury, even though, it is essential for these workers.

"There were a lot of violators," said Calderon when explaining the reasons for the exclusion of nearly 200,000 patients from the health reform, "but I assure you that all of those who demonstrate they are in need will have it back."

Hernandez Mayoral: PDP Has Inadequate Legislators

By Luis R. Varela of Associated Press

June 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral affirmed Saturday that he does not wish for some legislators who have had a poor performance this four-year term to accompany him on the ballot.

But the Ponce lawyer acknowledged that some of these legislators he considers inadequate will be on the PDP ballot and he will have to campaign with them.

"If you would let me dictate the candidates, the PDP ballot would be very different, if it would be something purely left up to me. There would be names there that people would not know, he said in a radio interview. "But that’s not the reality."

Hernandez Mayoral refrained from mentioning the names of the legislators he thinks have not done an adequate job.

"I don’t want to identify them by name because some of them will be candidates and I will have to campaign with them because that is a reality," said the son of former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon.

SEC Asks For Amendments To Political Financing Law

June 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The law for the financing of political campaigns that was recently approved has to be amended to allow primary candidates to file their nominations in the year of the general election, said State Elections Commission (SEC) Chairman Aurelio Gracia.

"In fact, primaries should be held in the election year," since doing so with a year of anticipation opens a political contest almost two years before the general election, the former judge argued.

At present, the law says that for the 2008 elections, primaries will be held 12 days before Good Friday in the election year, but no dates were established to begin the primary process.

Regarding the current primary process, which began Sunday and will end Nov. 9, Gracia said "everything is on wheels."

Treasury Collects $23.4 Million Through Incentive Plan

June 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Treasury Department has collected through Wednesday more than $23.4 million in tax debts thanks to a recently established incentive plan.

According to published reports, that amount was collected from nearly 13,868 taxpayers, a majority of whom are individuals who collectively paid over $14.3 million in income tax debts.

Corporate tax payments totaling $7.4 million occupy second place in collections.

The tax incentive plan will be effective until July 30. By then, the government expects to collect $125 million.

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