September 28, 2017
HHS boosts post-Hurricane Maria medical surge into U.S. territories
More than 500 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) personnel are engaged in today in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to address residents’ medical and public health needs as part of the Trump Administration’s government-wide response to the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
"Hundreds of dedicated medical professionals from HHS are actively engaged in the response to help residents affected by these devastating storms,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Robert Kadlec, M.D. “We are fully committed to ensuring the local healthcare infrastructure comes back on line to support the residents of Puerto Rico."
Personnel from HHS’ National Disaster Medical System and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps have provided care for more than 200 patients at a temporary federal medical site at the Centro Medico hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. HHS medical personnel also are providing assistance to an overwhelmed emergency department, providing staffing support, and providing medical shelter for transferred patients in San Juan.
Due to lack of phone service in Puerto Rico, HHS teams are traveling to hospitals across Puerto Rico to assess the level of damage to the facilities, whether these facilities are operating, how many resources they may lack and whether patients at the facilities need to be evacuated. HHS personnel have conducted assessments of hospitals on the islands. HHS personnel have assessed hospitals in the Puerto Rican cities of Bayamon, Mayaguez, Fajardo, Arecibo, Metro, Caguas and Ponce.
All but one of the medical facilities is operating on generators that will need resupply to continue operations. HHS is working with federal and territory partners to prioritize power restoration and fuel delivery to medical facilities.
HHS medical personnel also are supporting overwhelmed emergency departments on St. Croix and St. Thomas, and are providing care for patients on St. John.
Before and after Hurricane Maria hit the islands, HHS personnel along with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs transferred more than 350 dialysis and critical care patients to more secure locations in San Juan; Miami; Shreveport, Louisiana; Atlanta; Columbia, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi.
HHS agencies are using every possible means to assist the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands health departments in providing information to residents to preempt widespread injury or illness as they clean up debris, flood-affected properties, and mold in the hot temperatures and combat mosquitoes that breed in standing water. HHS also is distributing public health information through the Puerto Rican diaspora communities in the continental United States.
A team of public health and environmental health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also deployed to assist Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with assessments of shelters, water systems and other environmental health and public health needs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to work with territory officials and the thousands of food and medical product firms in the U.S. territories affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria to assess the impact on their facilities. The FDA’s most immediate goal is to ensure the safety and availability of critical, medically necessary products used by patients and consumers in need. The FDA is working to help Puerto Rico and its considerable drug and medical device manufacturing base to ensure that supply of these products is maintained, and to return these workers to their jobs as soon as possible.
The Disaster Distress Helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for territory residents to aid people in coping with the behavioral health effects of the storm. Residents can call 1-800-985-5990 toll free or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
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: