A New York Times story says the military halted Haitian medical-evacuation flights to Florida after a dispute with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist over who pays for care.
Here's the problem: It looks like a one-sided dispute. Crist doesn't look like he threw down any gauntlet at all.
Instead, on Jan. 27, three days ago, he sent HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a letter that asked her to activate the National Disaster Medical System to help coordinate the state-side response, provide states more more federal financial and for the feds to start sending Haitian earthquake victims to other states because Florida hospital emergency rooms can't continue handling a flux of earthquake victims.
Crist even signed the letter in his blue Sharpie with an enthusiastic "Great to talk with you yesterday!"
How this letter could be misinterpreted is a testament to the fog of managing a disaster and/or a severe case of bureaucracy run amok by President Obama's administration or the military or both. There's also the possibility the Times got the story wrong, as Crist suggested this morning, but it looks as if the paper just reported the facts at hand. And HHS doesn't look like it was much help in talking to the reporter.
Crist just sent out a statement saying that, just last night up to 80 Haitian orphans arrived in Florida. "Let me be clear - at no time has Florida closed our doors to those impacted by the earthquake in Haiti," Crist said.
Here are excerpts of his letter:
Unfortunately, communication with an appropriate federal lead agency and the lack of coordination by federal authorities has been challenging. However, Florida’s “Operation Haiti Relief” team has done everything we can to ensure repatriated citizens are smoothly transitioned through international airports, their medical evacuation flights are coordinated, and they are directly admitted into Florida hospitals.
As a result, Florida’s health care system is quickly reaching saturation, especially in the area of high level trauma care. We will not be able to sustain these efforts alone. Therefore the State of Florida is respectfully requesting that you activate the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to assist in distributing these critically ill medical patients to other state and ensure states are appropriately reimbursed for their services…..
Florida’s “Operation Haiti Relief” team has worked with deployed staff, 24 hours a day at key sites throughout the state. This is an effort of unprecedented scope and the following is a snapshot of Florida’s activity to date:
*15,411 repatriation passengers on 660 flights
*436 have been admitted to hospitals, greater than 90% of these patients have been multiple trauma
*25% of these patients have been under the age of 18
Recently, we learned that federal planning is underway to move between 30-50 critically ill patients per day for an indefinite period of time. Florida does not have the capacity to support such an operation.
Additional factors complicate Florida’s current healthcare system capacity and we are at current peak from winter tourism and seasonal residence migration.Florida has fully supported the federal mission during this crisis, but we need you to assist us by establishing a process through NDMS to better manager and support these critically injured patients…