September 11, 2008

HHS Provides State Assistance in Preparing for Hurricane Ike, Recovering From Hurricane Gustav

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt today announced the continued activation of more than 1,600 agency personnel to assist Gulf states in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Ike, including support for medical evacuations which began late Wednesday night and continues today in Corpus Christi.

"Our hearts go out to the residents who are threatened by Hurricane Ike, and who have suffered because of Hurricane Gustav," Secretary Leavitt said. "The department is offering our help by making available to our state partners a wide spectrum of our health and medical resources."

In preparation for Hurricane Ike, HHS has activated the National Disaster Medical System, a federally coordinated operation that can assist state and local officials in dealing with major disasters. Working closely with our colleagues in the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Disaster Medical Assistance Teams are helping evacuate an estimated 200 patients by air and many more on the ground from Texas health care facilities on Wednesday and Thursday. These patients are being moved to locations within Texas, but away from the storm's path. Additional locations in Oklahoma and Arkansas have been prepared to receive patients if needed.

Also among the activated personnel are more than 550 U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers. Personnel are in place or moving into position for Hurricane Ike to assist with medical evacuations and special needs shelters. All 6,000 U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers are on alert, ready to deploy to states that need assistance in preparing for, responding to and recovering from these storms.

HHS medical personnel will assist state agencies and nongovernmental organizations in providing medical care for residents in the general population who are injured or become ill during evacuations. The HHS staff will also be available to augment hospital staff in responding to the expected surge in emergency room visits.

Five Federal Medical Stations, each with 250 beds, are being set up in Texas. Two will be ready for use in College Station and three will be available in San Antonio to provide basic care to medical patients who are evacuated from hospitals and nursing homes. These stations will be staffed by medical professionals from the state, the federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers, and personnel from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Caches of medical and pharmacy supplies are moving into place to support medical needs of impacted communities.

More than 400 HHS personnel remain in Texas and Louisiana to assist with recovery from Hurricane Gustav and are part of the staff preparing for the impact of Hurricane Ike. While augmenting hospital emergency room staffs and at Federal Medical Stations in Louisiana, HHS medical teams have treated more than 1,300 patients. HHS medical personnel continue to provide care for approximately 80 patients in one Louisiana state-run shelter.

Approximately 15 patient advocates from the HHS Administration for Children and Families are assisting patients at Federal Medical Stations in returning to their communities. An additional 15 HHS human services personnel are in Louisiana with the new HHS case management demonstration program. The program provides HHS personnel to work with Louisiana agencies, nonprofit organizations and community action groups in helping Hurricane victims identify and access social services programs to aid in recovering from Hurricane Gustav.

To provide further individual assistance for uninsured residents in Louisiana communities impacted by Hurricane Gustav, Secretary Leavitt activated a new Emergency Pharmacy Assistance Program. The program provides a 30-day supply of replacement prescription medications and certain durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs and canes.

In addition, the agency has provided approximately 35 environmental health inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist the state of Louisiana with thousands of inspections needed to reopen restaurants, daycare centers and other facilities. Their work is expected to be complete by Sept. 12.

For additional information about HHS support for Hurricane preparedness, response and recovery, visit

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at