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New York Daily News

Carrion Gives Vieques' Sick A Special Gift


November 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

The bombing has stopped, but Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion hasn't forgotten Vieques.

Six months after the U.S. Navy ceased bombing exercises on the island, Carrion, who spent 40 days in a Brooklyn jail for trespassing on the bombing range during a protest, returned yesterday to deliver some health care help to the Puerto Rican island's residents.

Kidney disease patients on Vieques - a tiny island with about 9,000 inhabitants - have long been airlifted or ferried to the nearby mainland for dialysis treatments because the island's health care facilities do not have the necessary equipment.

Yesterday, Carrion presented Vieques' mayor, Damaso Serrano, with a $10,000 check to buy three new dialysis machines for the Vieques Diagnostic and Treatment Center - also called the Vieques Local Hospital - so patients can get treatment closer to home.

"These much-needed supplies will provide immediate access to vital services not available before," Carrion said at a press conference and ceremonial check presentation yesterday morning.

The transport program is difficult for dialysis patients, many of whom are elderly, and costs the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Vieques municipal government thousands of dollars each year.

"Our dialysis patients have lived an odyssey for generations," said Serrano. "They must leave home at dawn to start a long and exhausting day's journey by ground, sea and air to receive treatment miles away. All that is going to change now."

The Ryan Community Health Network, a community health organization in New York City, donated the money after Carrion approached them about the problem.

"The people of Vieques deserve the best health care available within the United States," said Julio Bellber, president of the Ryan Network. "We are glad to contribute to the well-being and empowerment of this community."

Carrion and Bellber traveled to Vieques to present the check to Serrano, who was joined by officials of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and local health care officials.

The funds also will enable the hospital to purchase an electrocardiogram machine and a defibrillator.

"The people of Vieques will always be grateful to the Ryan Community Health Network and Borough President Carrion for their generosity," said Betzaida MacKenzie, administrator of the Vieques Local Hospital.

"This longtime needed medical equipment will help us save lives and set a new standard for health care in our municipality."

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