HHS augments medical care at hospitals in Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria

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The Department of Health and Human Services medical staff today will assist two more partially operational medical facilities and a shelter in Puerto Rico as part of the Trump administration’s relief efforts for the U.S. territories impacted by Hurricane Maria. Last night, HHS began providing assistance at four medical facilities.

These sites are in addition to the temporary medical site established at Centro Medico, an emergency and trauma center in San Juan where HHS medical teams have seen more than 245 patients.

"We are bringing the full force of HHS' medical assets and resources to provide needed medical care and to aid in restoring the healthcare system in Puerto Rico," said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D.

Staff from HHS and the Department of Defense assisted the Puerto Rico Department of Health in visiting 64 of the 69 medical facilities on the island to identify specific support needs. The visits found that 60 medical facilities were operational in some capacity, and four were closed. HHS also received reports that 46 of 48 dialysis centers in Puerto Rico were at least partially operational.

To provide additional medical support, HHS today will begin establishing two Federal Medical Stations sent from the Strategic National Stockpile to serve as temporary shelters for people with special medical needs.

HHS medical personnel also will join Urban Search and Rescue in unreached parts of the island to triage residents found and, if needed, arrange transport for medical care.

More than 500 HHS personnel from the National Disaster Medical System and U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps are deployed to Puerto Rico to staff the temporary medical sites and Federal Medical Stations, providing medical and public health support to the territory. Additional personnel are on alert from across the continental United States.

Currently, National Disaster Medical System personnel are deployed from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. 

HHS staff members from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Administration for Children and Families are working with the American Red Cross and other non-government organizations to provide transportation, meals, and other support for approximately 120 dialysis patients evacuated from U.S. Virgin Islands to Atlanta. Staff identified hotels near dialysis centers where HHS is paying for these residents to stay until they can return home safely.

In addition to medical care, 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. So far, the line has received more than 6,275 calls in areas impacted by hurricanes this year.

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 Puerto Ricans have access to medical products.

If you are a healthcare organization interested in offering bulk medical supplies/treatment personnel, or are looking to provide aircraft for evacuations, 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.

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. Updates and health information also are available at:

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