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US halt to Haiti evacuations stirs controversy

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-01-31

Critically injured Haitian earthquake victims are no longer being flown by the US military for treatment in the United States, raising fears some will die in a dispute over where to treat them and who should pay the costs.

AFP - Critically injured Haitian earthquake victims are no longer being flown by the U.S. military for treatment in the United States, raising fears some will die in a dispute over where to treat them and who should pay the costs.

U.S. officials said on Saturday no solution had yet been found in order to renew the U.S.-run medical evacuations, which were halted earlier this week.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist is asking the federal government to share the burden of treating people seriously injured in the Jan. 12 quake and who need specialized medical care in U.S. hospitals.

“Florida’s health care system is quickly reaching saturation, especially in the area of high level trauma care. We will not be able to sustain these efforts alone,” Crist said in a letter to the federal government earlier this week.

He asked the federal government to send some patients to other states and ensure that hospitals are paid for the treatment.

Hundreds of people have already been evacuated to the United States for treatment, most of them to Florida hospitals, but military officials said they canceled the flights on Wednesday because they no longer knew where to take them.

The White House said on Saturday that “this situation arose as we started to run out of room,” and that there had been no policy decision to suspend the evacuation flights.

U.S. government agencies “are working on solutions,” including expanding capacity in Haiti to deal with the critically ill, presidential spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

While Florida insisted it was not closing the door on earthquake victims, it wants the Obama administration to put a plan in place.

“We have not turned down any flights. We have not asked for the flights to stop,” said John Cherry, spokesman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “We just need better coordination and planning from our federal partners so that we can ensure that we’re ready to help out and other states are as well.”

AMERICANS ARRESTED

Authorities in Haiti said on Saturday they had arrested 10 U.S. citizens caught trying to take 33 children out of the country without documents proving adoptions had taken place or that the children were orphaned by the quake. [ID:nN30148851]

The five men and five women, from an Idaho-based charity called New Life Children’s Refuge, were in custody in Port-au-Prince after their arrest on Friday night at the Malpasse border crossing with the Dominican Republic.

Laura Sillsby, a leader of the group, told Reuters from a jail cell it “had permission from the Dominican Republic government to bring the children to an orphanage that we have there.”

Fears have mounted since the quake that traffickers could try to exploit the chaos to pursue illegal adoptions.

The earthquake killed as many as 200,000 people and hundreds of thousands more were injured. Haiti’s hospitals were overwhelmed with patients needing treatment for skull and spinal injuries, burns and amputated limbs.

Although the military-run evacuations to U.S. hospitals have helped only a small number of earthquake victims, their cancellation would likely bring sharp criticism of the U.S. relief effort.

“The flights in some ways, while themselves may not be that important to the larger public health problem, it may be a first signal that the world is going to turn its back on Haiti,” David Ansell, a doctor from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center who is part of an emergency relief team, said in the Haitian capital on Saturday.

The U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort is posted just off the Haitian coast and is treating thousands of earthquake victims, but it is not able to handle some specialized cases.

There are seriously injured people who need urgent treatment all across Port-au-Prince.

Danielle Bien-Aime’s left leg was crushed when her home collapsed around her and it has since been amputated. She lies in a medical tent and is on dialysis after her kidneys failed.

“There are many things that could be done in a modern environment. If she was back in Florida her wound would be properly treated. She would have a special filter to stop the blood clot traveling to her lung. She would have proper antibiotics,” said R.T. Noel Gibney, an Irish physician from the Doctors Without Borders group who is treating Bien-Aime.

Aid workers have also been struggling to get food to hundreds of thousands of survivors. Some handouts in Port-au-Prince have been chaotic, with crowds of young men fighting for food while women, the elderly and sick miss out.

The U.N. World Food Program said on Saturday it would begin using a coupon system and the coupons would only be given to women. The first distributions will take place at 16 sites in the city on Sunday and continue for two weeks. Each family will receive a 55-pound (25-kg) bag of rice.

The WFP said it hoped to reach over 2 million people during the two-week period.

Date created : 2010-01-31

  • HAITI

    US military halts medical evacuations of earthquake victims

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