Mississippi hospitals take in evacuees from Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

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Larrison Campbell, Mississippi Today

The G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery V.A. Medical Center in Jackson

Eight hospital patients receiving medical care in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been evacuated to Mississippi hospitals after Hurricane Maria has left many of Puerto Rico’s medical services hospitals in critical condition.

The G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery VA Medical Center announced Wednesday that the patients have arrived via the Allen C. Thompson Air National Guard Base Field and are being assisted by staff from the Mississippi State Department of Health, University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Air National Guard’s 172d Airlift Wing along with the medical center.

Mississippi State Department of Health spokeswoman Liz Sharlot said the department has been receiving evacuees from areas of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico since Monday.

“So far there have been five flights bringing patients – eight so far – and another flight is expected tonight bringing in another patient,” Sharlot said in an email Wednesday.

Dr. David Walker, director of the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery VA Medical Center, said the patients will be spread out across hospitals within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System. This includes 13 hospitals located in Madison, Hinds, Rankin and Warren Counties, Walker said.

While the identities or information on patients’ conditions were not immediately available, Walker described the evacuees as critical care and noncritical care patients needing a medical or surgical bed, surgical patients who will need an intensive care unit or patients needing a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“One family member accompanied a patient pregnant with twins,” Walker said. “I believe (Batson Children’s Hospital) would be managing NICU patients.”

Walker said missions are updated each day, and health officials typically don’t find out how many patients will be arriving until three to six hours beforehand. He said flights that arrived in Mississippi on Wednesday originated from either Saint Croix or San Juan.

“This system is for the United States and its territories,” Walker said. “It was set up for Hurricane Harvey, but patients evacuated remained in the state of Texas. For Irma, there were evacuations, but the system wasn’t used in those cases because patients remained in-state.”

The State Department of Health will remain on alert to receive patients for the near future, Sharlot said.