September 1, 2005
Houston - On August 31, 2005, the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) was activated. This means many hospitals in Houston are gearing up to receive patients from the hurricane-affected areas. In Houston, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) is the coordinating facility for this medical response effort.
Yesterday, the MEDVAMC moved supplies, equipment, and personnel to Ellington Field and established a Patient Reception Team (PRT). The PRT is comprised of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, housekeepers, facilities management, police officers, and health administration personnel. Beginning at 5 p.m. on August 31, 2005 through 5:30 a.m. on September 1, 2005, the PRT received five C-130 military transport aircraft flown by Air National Guard units from Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nevada, Michigan, and West Virginia.
From these aircraft, the PRT triaged and distributed 188 patients to Houston-area hospitals and the MEDVAMC. Twelve patients from this group were veterans and were admitted to the MEDVAMC. The patients, ranging from a 4-month old to a gentleman in his 80s, were generally suffering from dehydration and fatigue. Several needed emergency dialysis and treatment for infections.
Support from the City of Houston, Harris County, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, local ambulance companies, the Houston Fire Department and EMS, and Houston community hospitals was tremendous. At one point, there were at least 50 ambulances lined up ready to transport patients. The support of Ellington Field, the Texas Air National Guard, and NASA was a key component to the success of the operation.
Today, September 1, 2005, the MEDVAMC has 147 beds available to receive veteran patients from the New Orleans VA Medical Center. These patients are expected to arrive in Houston via military transport at approximately 2:30 p.m. However, transportation logistics are complex and timeframes remain difficult to determine because of the enormous relief effort taking place along the devastated Gulf Coast area. We are not able to confirm arrival times until the aircraft is 30 minutes from Ellington Field.
MEDVAMC also received notice to prepare for additional aircraft carrying other refugees from the hurricane-affected areas this morning at 10:30 a.m.
# # #