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HHS, DOD to rescue dialysis patients from Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma

HHS and the Department of Defense have begun search and rescue efforts to evacuate dialysis patients from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, due to damage left in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Disruptions in dialysis treatment can become life-threatening within two or three days. "People who rely on dialysis are among the most medically vulnerable after natural disasters, and given the extent of the destruction on St. Thomas, we are very concerned about the health and safety of dialysis patients there right now," said Robert Kadlec, MD, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

CMS estimates more than 130 American dialysis patients live on St. Thomas, which sustained extensive damage to its healthcare facilities as a result of the hurricane. This is the first time HHS medical personnel have worked with Urban Search and Rescue teams attempting to find patients who did not respond to local authorities' messages to evacuate.

HHS emPOWER and CMS systems provided data to support the rescue effort, such as allowing public health authorities to access to information on Medicare beneficiaries in certain zip codes who rely on life-maintaining and assistive equipment.

More articles on patient flow: 

U of Utah Hospital limits police access to patient rooms after aggressive nurse confrontation
Baptist Beaumont loses water access, evacuates
Poll: 18% of health leaders don't have an emergency preparedness plan

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