GUAYNABO, P.R. - Crowded waiting rooms are the norm at many doctors' offices in Puerto Rico. In some cases, patients can wait all day to see a physician.
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Even worse, getting an appointment to see certain specialists can take more than a year. It's a wait, many patients can't afford.
"In 2 or 3 days you know what you have. Here you have to go one thing at a time, then another one and it takes a long time to know what you have," said Josette Fullana, who suffered a medical episode after hurricane Maria and had to seek care at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota."
Data Spectrum Bay News 9 obtained from Puerto Rico's College of Physicians and Surgeons paints a grim picture.
The College's president, Victor Ramos, says 700 doctors left the island just last year. That left about 9,000 doctors serving a population of some 3.4 million people. Concerning numbers considering Puerto Rico has some of the highest cancer and diabetes rates in the country.
"If you have cancer and you have a late appointment for the visit, maybe it's too late for the treatment," said Ramos.
According to the College, there are only 14 allergists, 7 cardiologists, 3 trauma surgeons, 2 head and neck surgeons and only one sports medicine doctor in Puerto Rico today.
Dr. Francisco Capo, a urologist in San Juan, says disproportionate insurance reimbursements are mainly what's been driving doctors out of the island in recent years to places like Florida.
"Because of that [reimbursement problem], there is a shortage of income, a shortage of investment," Capo said.
He added, another hurricane could spell disaster for an already ailing medical field, if doctors continue to leave Puerto Rico for jobs in the mainland.