Vermont Medical Volunteers Sign Up for Possible Service in Areas Devastated by Hurricane Katrina

For Immediate Release: Sept. 6, 2005

Media Contact: Communication Office

BURLINGTON – More than 100 Vermonters with specialized medical skills have answered a call from the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) to Vermont Emergency Management on Thursday, Sept. 2, for possible deployment to areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Volunteer service will be coordinated through Vermont Emergency Management. The Douglas Administration is communicating daily with various federal agencies, including Health and Human Services, to determine the levels of need.

“The response by Vermont’s medical community has been swift and caring,” said Gov. Jim Douglas. “Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) is an agreement among 48 states to share resources during a disaster. Vermonters, if called upon through EMAC, will provide critical support, alleviate suffering and save lives.”

Emergency physicians, primary care physicians, surgeons, epidemiologists, nurses (RNs or LPNs), and respiratory therapists signed up through the Vermont Department of Health website - or called in to volunteer at 802-651-1561.

Volunteers will play a key role in the recovery process. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for example, is relying on volunteers to staff four 500-bed field hospitals that will be set up in Louisiana and Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle. HHS is setting up two of these hospitals in New Orleans, which will double the number of beds available in the city.

If deployed, Vermont medical personnel will be involved in relief efforts where flood waters will may be contaminated with chemicals and human waste. Much of the work will involve recovery of bodies as well as care of survivors. Natural disasters contribute to the spread of many serious food and water-borne diseases, especially since water supplies and sewage systems have been disrupted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The conditions will be severe, which is why we have a particular need for physicians and nurses with field experience,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health. “Vermont’s medical community is a tight-knit, highly skilled and dedicated group. If the Vermont team is called upon, we are confident they will make an immediate difference in the lives of people impacted by Katrina.”

Thirty-nine physicians and 35 nurses are among the Vermont volunteers who, if deployed, would be expected to stay for no less than seven days, with an average 14-day assignment.

The response from out-of-state medical professionals, although not eligible to join the Vermont team, was unexpected as approximately 30 people from 16 different states, including California and Minnesota, requested to serve alongside Vermonters.