For the first time in U.S. history, the National Disaster Medical System and Federal Coordination Center have been activated, and patients are arriving at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport who have been evacuated from medical facilities in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands affected by recent hurricanes.
“This is history in the making, and I could not be prouder of the joint efforts of all the participating agencies that are making this mission successful,” Col. Eric Edwards, NDMS Incident Commander, said in a news release.
The Columbia team has received and transported four patients, according to Russell Hubright, public information officer for the South Carolina Forestry Commission’s Incident Management Team, which is helping manage the operation.
Hulbright said at least two more evacuees were expected Monday and many more could arrive over the next 72 hours, given reports of the deteriorating conditions in Puerto Rico as a result of flooding.
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These patients are triaged onsite and then transferred to a local hospital where they will receive further treatment. More than a dozen regional hospitals and healthcare facilities are providing medical care.
Most of the participating hospitals are located in the Midlands, according to Hubright, but there are others in Florence and Orangeburg.
“We’re just glad and to actually help,” Hubright said. SCFC’s Incident Management Team has been practicing for this type of event, he said. “It’s kind of a big deal.”
The South Carolina State Guard and several other local, state, and federal agencies and organizations are helping the operation.
They’re all participating at the request of S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and Maj. Gen. John P. Johnson, Fort Jackson’s commanding general. They wanted Columbia to help ahead of similar operations set up in Atlanta and Shreveport, La.
“Thanks to the support of South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and Maj. Gen. John P. Johnson the Fort Jackson Commanding General, as well as the hard work of all the participating agencies and organizations, we are ready to receive as many patients as we are asked to,” Edwards said.