Five days ago, Gov. Charlie Crist asked HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to activate the National Disaster Medical System to help the state cope with the Haitian disaster-response. Finally, Sebelius approved it. Nice guy Charlie just sent out a statement praising her "quick response."
More like muddled. In reaction to Crist's letter, the military decided that Florida or its hospitals (military spokesmen wouldn't say exactly who) didn't want to help. So it unilaterally suspended medical-evacuation flights to Haiti. And then sloppy reporting from news outlets like NBC made matters worse. In back to back Saturday and Sunday stories, the nightly news blamed the suspension of flights on... Charlie Crist and a dispute over medical costs. Really.
"The airlift shut down after Florida's governor complained the cost for treating more than 300 critical patients from Haiti overwhelmed the state's budget, and Florida needed federal money," reporter Kerry Sanders said Saturday.
Never mind there was no real evidence to back this up, save vague statements from the military and craftily edited snippets from Crist. Even the White House said it wasn't a funding issue.
Oh well. What was clear, according to Florida officials, is that the feds haven't done much in the way of communicating well with the state.
The state's Haiti-aid coordinator, Interim Emergency Management Director Dave Halstead, said that on Wednesday night military officials gave him just 20 minutes' notice before a plane landed in Tampa with 22 critically ill patients aboard. One burn victim had to be driven all the way to Shands Hospital in Gainesville for treatment.
``It's simple: What's the plan? What types of patients? Are these people with brain injuries that go to specific hospitals? Are they people with amputations that might be better served at other hospitals?'' Halstead said.
``We're shooting in the dark. This is Day 18. I understood why there was no plan on Day 3. But this is Day 18 and there's no plan. I just don't understand that.''