A hospital physician from Indian Wells, California, Dr. Prerna Khanna, has returned home after assisting the federal medical response to Hurricane Maria as part of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). Dr. Khanna serves as a member of an NDMS Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT).
As of Tuesday, NDMS personnel along with U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS) officers have provided care to more than 1,600 people affected by the storm.
“Hurricane Maria caused devastation across much of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and NDMS members from throughout our nation are helping respond to the residents’ medical needs,” said NDMS’ Acting Director Ron Miller. “When a state or U.S. territory requests our assistance, we will be there to provide the best care in the worst of times.”
The NDMS is a federal program that can support communities with medical care and mortuary assistance during disasters or public health emergencies at the request of states and U.S. territories; NDMS is among the resources made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).
HHS personnel deployed to the U.S. Virgins Islands and Puerto Rico are providing life-saving care, helping stabilize health care systems including suppliers and regulated industries in the territories, and restoring services to meet residents’ needs with a focus on services for people with chronic health conditions. HHS also is maintaining a physical presence in every hospital in Puerto Rico through a collaborative effort with the Department of Defense.
NDMS teams consist of physicians, nurses, veterinary staff, paramedics, fatality management professionals, and experienced command and control staff. When an emergency overwhelms local and state resources, ASPR looks to the expertise within NDMS and USPHS from across the country to assist in the response.
The NDMS comprises approximately 5,000 medical public health, and emergency management professionals, organized into more than 70 response teams. Although they hail from communities nationwide, when deployed they are federal government employees working as part of a coordinated federal response.
ASPR leads the nation in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters. It focuses on preparedness planning and response; building federal emergency medical operational capabilities; countermeasures research, advance development, and procurement; and grants to strengthen the capabilities of hospitals and health care systems in public health emergencies and medical disasters.
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