White House: Medical evacuations of Haitians to resume
Washington (CNN) — Flights transporting critically injured Haitians into the United States will resume within a few hours, the White House announced Sunday afternoon.
The flights were temporarily suspended because of logistical issues including space to care for the injured, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Saturday.
“Having received assurances that additional capacity exists both here and among our international partners, we determined that we can resume these critical flights,” he said in a statement Sunday.
The statement, released Sunday afternoon, said flights would resume “in the next 12 hours.”
The evacuated patients are those whose medical needs could not be met by doctors working in Haiti. Nearly 23,000 people have been seen by U.S. personnel since the January 12 earthquake, Vietor said.
Some volunteer American doctors in Haiti expect the flights to resume at 11 a.m. Monday, according to Nery Ynclan, a spokeswoman for Dr. Barth Green, of the University of Miami, who is leading a team of volunteers in Port-au-Prince.
Airlifts stopped after there were “concerns about the strain on domestic health capacity,” Vietor said. But officials have increased the ability to care for patients through a network of nonprofits and U.S. hospitals, he said.
But earlier reports also cited questions over who would pay for patients’ care.
The flights stopped Wednesday when some states refused to allow entry to Haitians needing care, according to Navy Capt. Kevin Aandahl, a spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Command. He would not say which states objected.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius obtained by CNN, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist asked that the federal government activate the National Disaster Medical System to provide reimbursement to Florida and other states for taking in the patients, who have no insurance.
Florida’s health facilities were already strained by winter tourism and seasonal residence migration, Crist said in the letter. But Florida officials said Saturday that the state was committed to assisting Haitian quake victims and had not asked the airlifts be halted.
Florida will play a role in caregiving once flights resume. The state has identified medical facilities that could take in victims, Vietor said in Sunday’s statement.