US military halts medical evacuations of earthquake victims
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The US military said Saturday it had suspended medical evacuations of critically injured Haitian earthquake victims after Florida Governor Charlie Crist formally asked the federal government to shoulder some of the cost of the care.
AFP - The US military said Saturday it had suspended medical evacuations of critically injured Haitian earthquake victims until a row over who will pay for their care is settled.
"We've temporarily suspended evacuation flights involving Haitian nationals, but that capability exists to resume," US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) spokesman Captain Kevin Aandahl told AFP.
"Apparently, some states were unwilling to accept the entry of Haitian patients for follow-on critical care," Aandahl said.
"We manage air evacuation missions, but without a destination to fly to, we can't move anybody. If we don't have permission to bring them, or they won't take them in, we can't fly the mission.
"It's pretty simple," he said.
Flights carrying people with spinal injuries, burns and other wounds ended Wednesday after Florida Governor Charlie Crist formally asked the federal government to shoulder some of the cost of the care, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Hospitals in Florida have treated more than 500 earthquake victims so far, including an infant who was pulled out of the rubble with a fractured skull and ribs, the report said.
Other states have also taken patients and those flights have been suspended as well, the paper added.
Crist’s request did not say how much the medical care was costing Florida, but the number and complexity of the cases could put the total in the millions of dollars, the paper said.
The expenditure comes at a time when the state is suffering economically and Crist is locked in a tough primary battle for the Senate seat that had been held by Republican Mel Martinez, The Times said.
The 7.0-magnitude quake on January 12 killed around 170,000 people, wounded around 200,000 and left more than one million homeless and short of food, water and medical attention.
Aandahl would not speculate on when the evacuation flights could resume, but said that US forces in Haiti were still giving vital medical care to quake victims.
"I think that we have a very robust medical presence in Haiti. So we are treating Haitian nationals there. This involves critical care or special medicine not available on the island right now," he said.
In a major relief operation, the US military has deployed 20,000 forces and 23 ships including a floating hospital to Haiti.
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