September 9, 2017
HHS continues buildup of medical support in Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma landfall
As part of the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to prepare for Hurricane Irma, HHS Secretary Tom Price briefed President Trump and the Cabinet this morning on the work of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in anticipation of Hurricane Irma making landfall, including moving more than 500 medical and related personnel into Orlando, Florida, to assist the state with medical and public health needs when Hurricane Irma makes landfall.
HHS called in seven National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) teams, including community doctors and nurses from around the country, and two teams from U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, to be in place ready to respond when and where needed. The NDMS team members are deploying from Alabama, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
These teams join U.S. Public Health Service officers as well as NDMS medical personal already staged in Orlando from Tennessee, Alabama, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Hawaii. Additional medical teams are on alert to be called in as needed.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration activated the Disaster Distress Helpline, a toll-free call center, (1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746) to aid people in coping with the behavioral health effects of the storm and help people in impacted areas connect with local behavioral health professionals.
HHS also provided data to public health authorities in Florida to assist them in reaching Medicare beneficiaries who rely on electrically powered medical equipment at home. Power outages become life-or-death situations for people with these medical conditions.
HHS remains in regular contact with Florida health officials to maintain awareness of the local situation and stands ready to augment its support to the state as the situation unfolds.
HHS medical teams are providing care at a hospital emergency department on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. HHS and the Department of Defense began evacuating dialysis patients from St. Thomas today, and HHS medical teams are accompanying Urban Search and Rescue teams in locating dialysis patients whom authorities were unable to reach in order to evacuate the patients.
Earlier this week, Secretary Price, declared public health emergencies for Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has provided blanket waivers to aid Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in receiving care unimpeded in the aftermath of the storm.
The Department is committed to meeting the medical and public health needs of communities across the southeast impacted by Hurricane Irma in the immediate aftermath of the storm and as affected areas recover. Information on health safety tips during and after the hurricane will be provided by the Office of the Assistance Secretary for Preparedness and Response and will be available at www.PHE.gov/Irma.
Critical updates will also be available at: