Gov. Crist and Fla Hospitals Put the Brakes on Haitian Airlifts Until They See Some Cash
January 30, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Compassionate conservatism is alive and well in the State of Florida under the governorship of Republican Charlie Crist. Governor Crist is reportedly balking at accepting further victims from the devastating earthquake in Haiti, which flattened the capital city of Port-au-Prince and left an estimated 150,000 dead. Thousands more are suffering from catastrophic injuries that can’t be properly treated in Haiti. And the United States has been conducting emergency, military medical evacuations to hospitals in nearby Florida and other parts of the country. But on Wednesday, the military suspended the evacuations of severely injured Haitians, because Crist complained that it was costing Florida money, during a time of recession. And according to the military, hospitals were refusing to take any more Haitian patients. Many victims will die, unless they receive hospital care, bu our broken for-profit health care system, is not willing to accommodate the thousands of victims.
A piece in Saturday’s New York Times reporting on the suspension of military airlifts to the U.S., made note of the fact that Charlie Crist was currently embroiled in a contentious and very tight U.S. Senate Republican primary race with right-winger and teapartier Marco Rubio. Now, what would a political race have to do with showing compassion for helpless and poverty-stricken earthquake victims from neighboring Haiti? Everything. Conservatives have not exactly embraced the relief effort to help the Haitian people. Television preacher Pat Robertson even came out with a statement blaming Haitians for the earthquake, suggesting it was the wrath of God, for their Voodoo practices and for forging an evil pact with the devil more than two-hundred-years ago. Apparently Crist’s hardhearted stance against helping Haitian refugees is an attempt to establish his right-wing teaparty bona fides in a tight political race.
The emergency medical airlifts using C-130s have been transporting quake victims with serious and life-threatening injuries, including cord injuries and burns. To date about 500 victims, including an infant with a fractured skull and broken ribs, have been treated at Florida hospitals. But Crist wrote a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, saying that Florida could not handle the influx of patients in a recession.
“Recently, we learned that plans were under way to move between 30 to 50 critically ill patients a day for an indefinite period of time,” Crist wrote. “Florida does not have the capacity to support such an operation.”
Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Mr. Crist told the New York Times, that Florida needed to be assured of reimbursement for the costs. “Florida stands ready to assist our neighbors in Haiti, but we need a plan of action and reimbursement for the care we are providing,” Ivey said. Ivey said Crist’s refusal of further patients from Haiti may have caused “confusion.”
The decision to suspend the medical flights was made by the military and not the department of health and human services, when military personnel began to encounter difficulty in finding hospitals that would take the victims. Maj. James Lowe, the deputy chief of public affairs for the United States Transportation Command, said “The places they were being taken, without being specific, were not willing to continue to receive those patients without a different arrangement being worked out by the government to pay for the care.”
However, Florida officials are denying that victims from Haiti were refused care. Jeanne Eckes-Roper, the health and medical chairwoman of the domestic security task force for the South Florida region, said she requested that the victims be transported elsewhere in the state, such as Tampa.
In light of the resistance from Florida hospitals, the federal government could trigger the National Disaster Medical System, to pay for victims’ care. According to The NY Times, “The National Disaster Medical System, if activated, would cover the costs of caring for patients regardless of their legal status.”
Meanwhile, people in Haiti suffer with severe head, spine or pelvic injuries, which require life-saving surgery that’s not available in the ravaged country. It’s understandable that states would need federal help in paying for the care, but the specter of hospitals turning quake victims away that are transported by U.S. military officials is an outrage.
See The New York Times for more.