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October 5, 2022

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HHS medical teams boosting health care services in Florida in aftermath of Hurricane Ian

More than 350 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) medical, public health, and disaster response personnel are deployed to support Florida communities as part of the Biden Administration’s government-wide response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian.

"Hundreds of dedicated medical professionals from HHS are engaged in the disaster response to help residents affected by Hurricane Ian,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Dawn O’Connell “We will do everything we can to support the people of Florida as the local healthcare infrastructure comes back online."

Personnel from HHS’ National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) currently are providing care in Florida’s Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee counties.

  • In Sarasota County, personnel are providing surge support in medical tents for the influx of patients arriving at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Emergency Department.
  • In Charlotte County, personnel are operating a stand-alone medical station in tents outside the Charlotte County Cultural Center. Three of five Charlotte County hospitals are closed due to damages sustained from Hurricane Ian; the fourth is operating at partial capacity, leaving only one fully open hospital.
  • In Lee County, teams are supporting four hospitals – Cape Coral Hospital, Lee Memorial Hospital, HealthPark Medical Center, and Gulf Coast Medical Center – as well as staffing a stand-alone medical station in tents outside the Peace River North Port Rehabilitation Center.

HHS will continue to work with federal and state partners to prioritize medical assistance to other areas affected by Hurricane Ian. Additional NDMS teams stand ready to support medical missions in the hardest hit areas of Florida.

NDMS teams travel with federal medical equipment and supplies. As of today, HHS has deployed approximately 60 trucks – 600,000 tons – of equipment and supplies for NDMS teams’ use in providing patient care in Florida.

In addition to sending in medical teams, supplies, and equipment, HHS has taken proactive measures to support the needs of at-risk populations.

  • HHS declared a public health emergency for Florida and South Carolina. The declarations follow President Biden’s emergency declarations for each state and gives the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) beneficiaries and their health care providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs, including making section 1135 waivers available to help ensure that beneficiaries in impacted areas receive the care they need.
  • The HHS emPOWER program provides information on the number of Medicare beneficiaries in impacted zip codes who rely on electricity-dependent durable medical equipment and certain healthcare services, such as dialysis, oxygen tank, or home health, to help the state anticipate, plan for, and respond to the needs of these potentially at-risk citizens.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with state authorities to push out information and resources specific to at-risk populations, including older adults, those with chronic conditions, and people with other functional and access needs. Topics include floodwater safety, carbon monoxide poisoning prevention and other power outage safety; and food and water safety.
  • CDC also issued a clinical guidance through the Health Alert Network (HAN) for carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has made the Disaster Distress Helpline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People in impacted areas can call or text 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

HHS agencies are using every possible means to assist Florida health departments and healthcare facilities and will remain engaged until the state determines federal public health and medical assistance is no longer needed.

Note to editors/producers: Imagery of HHS NDMS teams and equipment available in our Hurricane Ian Flickr Album

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