Federal, local efforts closely coordinated to care for Hurricane Maria survivors

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Efforts focused on providing care to those affected by devastating storm, reestablishing medical infrastructure, supplies

As part of the Trump Administration’s government-wide response efforts to help those affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) personnel, territory officials and community-based organization representatives today launched an effort to visit elder care facilities in each of the 78 municipalities throughout Puerto Rico to ensure their needs are being met.

We are working with hospitals and the health department in Puerto Rico to shore up the system and explore sustainable approaches to meeting long-term healthcare needs,” said Dr. Robert Kadlec, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response.  “We want to pay attention to people, like the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable.”

To date, medical personnel from HHS’ National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS) have provided care to more than 1,000 people affected by Hurricane Maria.

Medical personnel from the Department of Veterans Affairs and USPHS are staffing two Federal Medical Stations, which allow for care for up to 250 people at a time, in Manati and Bayamon, Puerto Rico. HHS personnel also are providing care at medical sites in San Juan, San German, Caguas, Fajardo, Arecibo, Ponce, and Humacao. HHS also is maintaining a liaison in every hospital in Puerto Rico through a collaborative effort with the Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure fuel and supply needs are met.

HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has confirmed that 99 percent of the territory’s approximately 6,000 dialysis patients are receiving regular treatment.

In addition to providing care to hurricane survivors, HHS efforts are focused on stabilizing the public health infrastructure that currently is operational by helping identify resource needs for coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In a partnership with DoD, HHS is working with private sector healthcare systems on sustainment strategies while electricity is being restored.

HHS also is in routine contact with pharmaceutical manufacturers on Puerto Rico to help prevent hurricane-related devastation from causing drug shortages for local residents and in the continental United States.

HHS continues to provide behavioral health support through the Disaster Distress Helpline. Residents can call 1-800-985-5990 toll free or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with companies impacted by the hurricane to prevent critical shortages of medical products in Puerto Rico. There are currently no drug shortages resulting directly from the impact of the storms. This information continues to evolve as companies assess the hurricane damage to Puerto Rico. The FDA, with federal partners, is coordinating with healthcare service companies working to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico have access to medical products.

Health care organizations interested in offering bulk medical supplies/treatment personnel, please visit: https://voad.communityos.org/volunteer-registration-pr-irma.

Information on health, safety and HHS actions are available at www.phe.gov/emergency. Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/psa/index.html. A full toolkit with text messages, social media, phone prompts, and other information to share with people in the affected areas can be found at ‎https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/diaspora_toolkit.html.

Residents in the continental United States are encouraged to provide these tips to family members and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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