Friday September 23, 2005
A C-130 aircraft carrying about 75 medical evacuees and their families from Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas landed at Louisville International Airport early this morning.
Louisville officials are prepared to handle more evacuees if needed, said Doug Hamilton, director of Louisville Metro Emergency Management Agency. Winds from the outer bands of Hurricane Rita are hampering air evacuation efforts, according to state emergency management officials.
The early-morning flight that landed about 1:45 a.m. at the Kentucky Air National Guard hangar was part of a coordinated federal effort to evacuate patients from hospitals and nursing homes in the potential path of Hurricane Rita, which is expected to make landfall in the next 24 hours.
Louisville is part of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), a federal consortium of cities with extensive health-care networks that can handle medical patients in the wake of an emergency.
Mayor Jerry Abramson monitored the response by telephone through the night by phone from Long Beach, California, where he has been attending a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting focusing on federal support to cities dealing with the impacts of the recent Hurricane Katrina and evacuees. The mayor is cutting his trip short and returning to Louisville tonight.
“I’m proud of the efforts of our coordinated team of professionals,” Abramson said. “We will continue to help our fellow citizens from the Gulf Coast make it through this difficult time.”
Patients from the early morning flight were triaged and evaluated by medical professionals from the VA Hospital, Louisville Metro EMS and the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Medical Squadron at the on-site triage center.
Louisville Metro EMS and other emergency responders transported 45 people to local hospitals via ambulance. About 30 family members and other people who didn’t require medical attention were assisted by the local chapter of the American Red Cross and then transported by TARC buses to the Executive Inn.
Most of the medical evacuees were elderly people from nursing homes or residents who received home-health care.
Louisville Metro Health Department and state health officials are working to locate beds in area nursing homes for the displaced nursing home patients who don’t need to remain in hospitals, said Dr. Adewale Troutman, director of Louisville’s health department.
In anticipation of the plane’s arrival, emergency management personnel surveyed regional hospitals for available beds. Patients were transported to the following hospitals: Norton Audubon, Baptist East, Caritas, Clark Memorial, Floyd Memorial, Norton, Norton Suburban, Norton Southwest, Jewish, Kosair, University and VA. Christopher East Nursing Home also received patients.
Several city agencies participated in the airlift of these patients, they include: Louisville Metro EMS, Louisville Metro Human Services, Louisville Metro Health Department, Louisville Metro Police, and the Louisville Metro Emergency Management Agency. Other agencies assisting in the evaluation and transportation of the medical evacuees include: the Louisville Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, Kentucky Air National Guard 123rd Airlift Wing, and the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Medical Squadron.
“We were pleased to assist in this effort,” said Col. Mark Kraus of the Kentucky Air National Guard. “Our personnel have been on the ground for weeks in the Gulf Coast region, and this is just another way to help in a time of need and crisis.”
The Kentucky Emergency Management Agency was originally told that Louisville could be expect two flights overnight, but one of those planes was diverted to Lexington with about 30 patients and family members aboard.
The future of the Family Assistance Center, scheduled to transition from Louisville Gardens to the American Red Cross headquarters next week, will depend on whether Louisville receives additional evacuees.