HHS Designates First Medical Shelters and Provides Vital Medical Supplies and Medical Assistance

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt announced on Friday that the first 10 Federal Medical Shelters (FMCs) will be located at Department of Defense (DoD) facilities throughout the Gulf region to provide basic healthcare services for Hurricane Katrina victims.

Additionally, Leavitt noted that nearly 100 tons in vital medications and supplies have been shipped since last weekend and currently are being distributed. For example, a 12-hour Push Package was delivered to Mississippi this morning that contained a broad spectrum of medical supplies and 100,000 doses of antibiotics.

The healthcare needs in the region are immense, and we are working as quickly as we can to get the medical care and supplies to the people who so desperately need them, Secretary Leavitt said. These facilities augment the medical services being provided and nearly 100 tons of supplies this Department has shipped already to the Gulf region. Additional shelters we will open in the coming days.

The first 10 shelters will be located at Fort Polk, La. (four Federal Medical Shelters); Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (two Federal Medical Shelters); Meridian Naval Air Station, Miss. (two Federal Medical Shelters); and Mississippi National Air Guard Facility (two Federal Medical Shelters). Each shelter has a 250-bed capacity, and HHS will provide the equipment and supplies needed to support each shelter. Up to 40 medical shelters will be created.

Five hundred U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers have traveled to the medical shelters. Each shelter will require three large semi-trucks of equipment and supplies. HHS, DoD, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) will staff the shelters with the necessary healthcare and support personnel. Each shelter will require a staff of 150.

HHSs National Institutes of Health (NIH) also announced a number of steps to assist with the medical needs in the Gulf region. NIH is setting up a telemedicine consultation and triage facility on the NIH campus that will serve as a medical specialty service to all 40 Federal Medical Shelters on the ground. This will focus on the sickest of the sick and link to expertise and care at NIH and 125 medical centers throughout the country.

In addition, NIH is organizing a volunteer task force that will staff a medical field unit to assist in the disaster area. NIH will provide a comprehensive, integrated team of experts on the ground, including medical specialists, nurses, information technology experts, and administrators.

Finally, NIH has made 50 beds available and up to 100 in the coming days in its hospital, as part of their disaster surge capacity capabilities.

NIH is doing what it does best--caring for the sickest of the sick, said NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni. Our disease specialists and hospital staff are partnering with medical centers around the country to give expert advice and care to hurricane victims with the most challenging medical conditions.

To date, the Department has taken the following steps to address this emergency:

-- HHS continues rushing medical supplies, medical personnel and public health expertise to the Gulf region to meet the needs of evacuees and victims of Hurricane Katrina.

-- Secretary Mike Leavitt has declared a Federal Public Health Emergency.

-- HHS is making available all its public health and emergency response capabilities to help state and local officials provide care and assistance to victims of this hurricane.

Evacuation of patients from New Orleans hospitals began Thursday. Hospitals across the nation participating in the NDMS are making beds available as part of the medical response.

-- HHS is setting up medical shelters throughout the Gulf region and identifying available hospital beds in the region to serve those being evacuated from New Orleans and areas devastated by Katrina.

-- HHS is deploying up to 4,000 medically-qualified personnel to staff to meet healthcare needs in this region.

-- The federal medical shelter on the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge filled 1,000 prescriptions with medicines from the Strategic National Stockpile yesterday.

-- HHS is using the NDMS to identify available hospital beds. HHS is working with DOD, VA and others to move patients to these facilities. At last count, there were 2,600 beds available in a 12-state area around the affected area. Nationwide, the NDMS has identified 40,000 available beds in participating hospitals

--The HHS is also reaching out to neighboring states, such as Texas, that are providing refuge for those evacuating the Gulf Region to make sure their needs are being met through any resources HHS can provide.

-- HHS has delivered nearly 100 tons of medical supplies to the Gulf Region from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).

-- Hundreds of thousands of doses of antibiotics from the SNS have been shipped to the region. Maintenance medications for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, anxiety and other conditions have been sent as well. Examples of these medications include tetanus vaccine, Ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, amoxicillin and insulin.

-- Additional medical supplies and equipment from SNS include basic first-aid material (such as bandages, pads, ice packs, etc.), blankets and patient clothing, suture kits, sterile gloves, stethoscopes, blood pressure measuring kits, portable oxygen tanks and other equipment needed to set up the Federal Medical Shelter at LSU in Baton Rouge.

-- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shipped 30,000 doses of tetanus vaccine for use in the disaster area.

-- More medical supplies will be shipped into Louisiana and Mississippi as needed to meet any growing demands for healthcare equipment and supplies.

-- HHS has public health experts working with states in the Gulf Region to help assess threats to public health and develop pro-active responses to not only prevent the spread of disease and illness but also start to address mental health issues.

-- The full resources and expertise of CDC and FDA are available to augment state and local public health resources including chemical and toxicology teams, sanitation and public health teams, epidemiology teams and food safety teams. CDC has assembled 24 teams of 20 disease, injury and toxin specialists who are ready to leave for the disaster zone.

-- CDC experts are now working with Louisiana officials to implement a mosquito abatement program that will help prevent or mitigate an outbreak of West Nile Virus.

-- CDC and FDA Environmental Health Officers are deploying to the states to help evaluate their sanitation and water systems.

-- HHS/CDC epidemiology teams, known as disease detectives, are reaching out to state and local officials to augment efforts to monitor potential outbreaks of disease or illness.

NIH is organizing a volunteer task force that will staff a medical field unit to assist in the disaster area. NIH will provide a comprehensive, integrated team of experts on the ground, including medical specialists, nurses, information technology experts, and administrators.

-- In addition to supporting initial FEMA mental health crisis counseling efforts, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has mobilized its Disaster Technical Assistance Center to support State mental health program directors in their efforts to conduct needs assessments, provide services, support ongoing administrative operations, access financial assistance and prepare for long-term assistance.

Source: HHS

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