For more than four days, the U.S. military stopped evacuating Haitian earthquake victims in need of medical treatment to the U.S., apparently because of a logistical misunderstanding.
White House spokesman’Tommy Vietor said in a’statement late Sunday that the ban, which started Wednesday, would end early today. Those most in need of help will be able to receive it again, but the ban should never have been put in place.
‘We determined that we can resume these critical flights,’ Vietor said. ‘Patients are being identified for transfer, doctors’are making sure that it is safe for them to fly, and we are preparing specific in-flight’pediatric care aboard the aircraft where needed.’
The evacuation flights stopped when some states refused to take Haitians in need of medical’treatment, Navy Capt. Kevin Aandahl said to CNN. He didn’t specify which states refused.
Florida has taken in hundreds of evacuees. Officials protested the ban and denied ever saying they couldn’t take any more.
‘We’re welcoming Haitians with open arms and probably done more than any other state and are happy to continue to do so,’ Gov. Charlie Crist said on ABC News’ ‘Good Morning America’ on Sunday.
This misunderstanding was likely caused by a letter Crist sent to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying the state medical system was under a lot of strain. Crist was not implying that Florida couldn’t take any more but was asking for the activation of the National Disaster Medical System, which would reimburse states for taking in uninsured Haitians.
Florida officials were’planning ahead, not asking the military to stop evacuating’critically-injured victims.
‘We’re willing to do’whatever it takes to treat people if we have the capability and worry about the costs later,’ Florida Division of Emergency Management spokesman John Cherry said to Time magazine.
With a natural disaster of this magnitude, relief efforts are naturally running into logistical and communication problems. However, the time-sensitive nature of this situation makes the mix-up inexcusable, regardless’of who is really to blame.
‘We have 100 critically-ill’patients who will die in the next day or two if we don’t Medevac them,’ Barth Green, a’neurosurgeon running a field’hospital in Port-au-Prince, said to The Associated Press on Friday.
The military, Florida and the U.S. government have to find a way to work together to avoid such potentially lethal mistakes.