Mike Leavitt, the former Utah governor who is now secretary of Health and Human Services, on Sunday acted to help Louisiana and Texas evacuate scores of patients with special medical needs before Hurricane Gustav arrives.
"Our thoughts are with those potentially in the path of Hurricane Gustav," Leavitt said. "HHS is working closely with the states and rapidly mobilizing medical personnel and necessary resources to be ready to help those impacted by this major storm."
Leavitt activated the National Disaster Medical System, a federally coordinated operation that can assist state and local officials in dealing with major disasters.
With that, HHS is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to provide air evacuation of 500 medical patients in Texas and an estimated 500 by air from Louisiana.
HHS personnel are also assisting the state of Mississippi and will assist the state of Alabama to evacuate medical patients by ground to health-care facilities within the states.
As part of this care, HHS has placed two Federal Medical Stations, each with a 250-bed capacity, in Texas and four in Louisiana to provide low critical care to residents during the emergency.
HHS also has caches of medical supplies in place in the Gulf region, with additional caches of medical supplies ready to deploy as necessary.
In preparation for evacuation and for medical care during and post-landfall of Hurricane Gustav, HHS has coordinated with federal agency partners to provide 600 ambulances, 20 air ambulances and 4,000 paratransit seats. Paratransit vehicles are specially equipped to transport people with disabilities.
Patients are moving to health-care facilities in Arkansas, Oklahoma and other areas of Texas. In addition, hospitals in Iowa, Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky that are in the National Disaster Medical System can receive additional patients if needed.
About 1,100 HHS personnel were in place Sunday, including members of disaster medical assistance teams that provide emergency medical response.