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Puerto Rico Won’t Pay Her Bills, So the Last Air Ambulance Closes

By: Frank Worley-Lopez - Sep 12, 2014, 11:35 am

EspañolEighteen months. That is how long it has been since air-ambulance service Aeromed has been paid for its services by the Puerto Rico health program “Mi Salud” — for a debt of $US4.6 million dollars.

aeromed
(Aeromed Facebook)

As a result, Puerto Rico’s only air-ambulance service is shutting down. Those injured in a serious accident, who cannot be transported by ambulance fast enough to save their lives, will die.

They will not die because the technology doesn’t exist. They will not die because there is no will to save them. They will die because the commonwealth government, under the current administration of Alejandro García Padilla, has utterly failed in its attempt to lead the territory.

This can’t be written off as a simple mistake; nor can it be written off as the fault of the previous administration of Luis Fortuño.

Alejandro, you own this one.

When the former governor (Fortuño) tried to address the over-burdened government and tried to cut the size of government, he was attacked, universally. Protests filled the streets; many strikes took place (some of which were illegal); and the media went into a wild, zombie-like frenzy. Even then, candidate Alejandro García Padilla joined union protests.

He said that under his administration there would be no layoffs. True. Instead, he is simply refusing to pay for a critical emergency service.

Understand this, as a limited-government, conservative libertarian I firmly believe that the government has only a few critical missions. Emergency response is one of those.

helimed-pilots-1
(Aeromed Facebook)

To compound his incompetence with the island’s financial crisis, the governor has bungled the hiring of a trustee to oversee the reforms at the heavily indebted Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The record of Lisa Donahue suggests that mass layoffs are coming to the power company, and the unions are already threatening strikes. The governor has indicated that she will have no power, and that he will be the one making decisions.

I assume he is saying he will order the layoffs that must come, but ready yourselves for “It was her!”

There is no way to overstate the crisis in Puerto Rico today.

Earlier this week, El Nuevo Dia reported that existing home sales on the island had dropped from 13,403 in 2006 to just 1,654 this year — a roughly 85 percent decline. More than 300,000 Puerto Ricans have left since then, with some estimates expecting another 500,000 to leave in the next several years.

Tax revenue, critical given the island’s massive $70 billion debt (or over $100 billon by some estimates, beyond 100 percent of GDP) has fallen. That is despite draconian tax programs and higher utility fees that few can afford. Entire government agencies have fallen behind on their utility payments.

Yet the government is willing to pay as much as one $1 million per year to hire a trustee to do what those in power should have had the courage to do already. What about a critical air-ambulance service?

Politicians and political parties have failed the people of Puerto Rico. Politics as usual is the politics of the abyss.

Editor’s note: after this article was published, the Puerto Rican government announced they would use helicopters from the Electric Power Authority to fill in until a new service could begin.