Date Published: 19 September 2008

AMA helps Texas coordinate medical response to Hurricane Ike victims

Health News from the United States of America (USA).

As Hurricane Ike approached the Texas shore, the American Medical Association (AMA) stepped up to assist Texas coordinate and integrate disaster relief activities among public and private emergency response organizations.

Italo Subbarao, DO, AMA's director of public health readiness, flew to Austin to represent the AMA on the ground in Texas. Dr. Subbarao assisted the State Department of Health at the State's Multiagency Coordination Center in Austin as a member of the Texas Medical Assist Team (TXMAT) to provide his expertise and to assess medical needs. As part of this team, he also helped the Texas Department of Public Health evaluate the hurricane's potential threat and their medical emergency response plan. On Monday, Sept. 15, Dr. Subbarao traveled to Galveston to assess the situation and help guide disaster relief efforts.

"As relief efforts get underway in Texas, the AMA is working in partnership with the appropriate disaster response teams to coordinate care to hurricane victims as quickly as possible," said Dr. Subbarao. "Because there are so many emergency medical teams working together, its very important they are integrated for an effective response."

James J. James, MD, director of public health preparedness for the AMA is assisting Texas manage the disaster response at the federal level.

"The AMA has helped Texas utilize available medical and public health assets at the local, state, and federal level," said Dr. James. "The AMA's National Disaster Life Support (NDLS) educational program that teaches medical responders the best disaster response strategies has set the stage for providing assistance to areas that need help most."

The AMA is playing an active role to coordinate the deployment of medical and public health assets such as Disaster Medical Assist Teams (DMAT) to the most severely damaged areas in East Texas. DMAT's are medical teams comprised of emergency and critical care specialists, physicians, nurses, paramedics, and pharmacists, who are capable of providing acute care management for 250 patients a day.

The AMA is also helping Task Force Ike, the major emergency management response and recovery operation, get underway in East Texas to search for and rescue victims that were unable to evacuate, reestablish electricity, water, and food, and shelter. A significant number of hospitals in East Texas have been damaged by the storm, and Task Force Ike is prioritizing returning power to these hospitals.

AMA Center for Public Health Preparedness & Disaster Response staff have worked with the CDC as well as Nancy Dickey, MD, former AMA president and current president of the Health Science Center and vice chancellor for health affairs for Texas A&M University to facilitate providing victims with proper care.

The Texas Medical Association currently provides a link to the ICERx (In Case of Emergency Prescription) Program to provide licensed physicians and pharmacists caring for Hurricane Ike evacuees with private, secure online access to available medication history information for affected individuals. Physicians can register their patients online.

The AMA is continuing to work with state and federal officials to monitor the situation and identify opportunities for the AMA to provide assistance. The AMA Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal will serve an expanded role to provide current information and reports.

Source: American Medical Association (AMA).

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