TOA BAJA, PUERTO RICO — At the Casa Ismael clinic for HIV-positive men with severe health complications, the staff used to immediately change patients’ diapers after they were soiled.
But last week, clinic administrator Myrna Izquierdo told the nurses that had to stop. To save money, the nonprofit clinic, which relies on its patients’ food-stamp money for funding, will ask patients to sit in diapers in which they have repeatedly urinated, sometimes for hours.
The Casa Ismael clinic is short on funds in part because of cuts in food stamps that hit about 1.3 million residents of Puerto Rico this month — a new crisis for an island still struggling from the effects of Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
“We just don’t have the money right now,” Izquierdo, 56, said in an interview in the clinic’s sparse first-floor office, where a chunk of ceiling tiles remains missing since the hurricane. Izquierdo pulled out a chart with each patient’s name, annotated with the cost of his Chugs and Pampers adult diapers for the month. “It’s very hard. It is so unfair. That cut is going to kill us.”