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Information from AAMC

September 2, 2005

To:  Members of the Council of Deans, Council of Teaching Hospitals and Health Systems, Council of Academic Societies, Organization of Student Representatives, Organization of Resident Representatives

From: Jordan J. Cohen, M.D., AAMC President

Subj: Hurricane Katrina Update

The outpouring of support for our colleagues affected by this tragedy is nothing short of overwhelming.  Following are the developments since my email to you yesterday:

  1. At the request of NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D., the AAMC organized an emergency conference call with all U.S. medical school deans to coordinate the response from NIH and academic medicine to the health care needs of patients affected by Hurricane Katrina.  The NIH has established a Command Center and a Katrina Response Web site (www.nih.gov) and will serve as the primary federal government link with academic medicine. Dr. Zerhouni has asked each dean to establish a Hurricane Katrina response unit within her/his institution and to appoint one contact person to serve as that institution's liaison with NIH. The AAMC will coordinate communications between these institutional response units and the NIH. The NIH expects to call upon our members for expert consultation and evaluation of high acuity patients evacuated from the disaster area who will require transfer to academic medical centers.  The AAMC is maintaining a roster of these representatives; nearly 75% of the schools have already responded. For more information on this effort, contact David Korn, M.D., senior vice president for biomedical and health sciences research, at dkorn@aamc.org. The NIH's summary of the conference call yesterday appears at the end of this email.

  2. The AAMC is establishing a centralized Web resource to provide information and links for medical schools, medical students, teaching hospitals, and residents affected by the hurricane, and to facilitate coordination between AAMC members and the NIH. The site (www.aamc.org/katrina.htm) will be live later today.

  3. The link for the centralized hospital relief Web site is now live.  Go to http://www.hospitalreliefefforts.org/hospitalreliefefforts/index.jsp to complete a brief form about how your hospital can help the relief effort. This information will be shared with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  4. Dr. Christina Beato, assistant secretary for health, called this morning to convey her own gratitude and that of HHS Secretary Leavitt and NIH Director Elias Zerhouni for the cooperation and responsiveness displayed by the academic medical community in this time of crisis. 

    Dr. Beato also provided the following update on several matters of interest: 
    FEMA has established a DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team) hospital at the New Orleans airfield to serve as an evaluation and triage center for persons being evacuated from the New Orleans area who require medical assistance. 24 public health teams under the coordination of the CDC are in the field to prevent, control, and contain infectious diseases. 

    Texas has agreed to accommodate 35,000 refugees, and Alabama and Florida, thousands more.  2600 hospital beds are available in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Eastern Texas, and emergency supplies of fuels and medical and hospital supplies have been provided to the Mississippi hospitals that had depleted their stocks. Although news reports have been focused on New Orleans, a large swath of Mississippi, much of it rural and poor, has been devastated, including its health care system. Restoring health care to that region continues to be a very high priority.The potential need for medical care assistance from academic medical centers will continue to be primarily for consultation and advice regarding the disposition of very sick or complex patients (e.g., patients who are post-transplantation, on chemotherapy or otherwise immunocompromised, or require mental health care).   

  5. In order to respond to providers with questions or concerns, CMS has made the following contact information available: A list of Questions and Answers is available at www.cms.gov.  The list will be updated as new issues are received. CMS will be updating the provider communities on their efforts via e-mail notifications. To sign up for the notifications, please sign up for the listserv at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/opendoor/listservs.asp 

  6. NIH Summary of Conference Call with Dr. Zerhouni and Medical School Deans September 1, 2005 Dr. Zerhouni thanked Dr. David Korn for organizing the call and thanked the group for its support and commitment; he enlisted their help in responding to the medical needs of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. 

    Dr. Zerhouni updated the group on the following:
    There are hundreds of patients that are being evacuated from the affected area to the 12 states in the surrounding area, with an estimated 2600 beds available.  HHS Secretary asked the American Hospital Association for assistance.
    Dr. Zerhouni outlined the two major responses to the crisis.
    1. The public health response, including water, sanitation, and control of potential disease outbreaks. This is primarily the realm of the CDC. 
    2. The medical needs of the victims. 

HHS has established a 250-bed contingency hospital in Baton Rouge.  NIH has deployed Commissioned Corps officers there. Ultimately, the Federal government intends to set up 40 medical care units in the affected region with telemedicine links. The need, however, for medical assistance for the critically ill, with life-threatening conditions, and time-sensitivity is very important. To respond to the medical needs of those with the most challenging health conditions, NIH has proposed a multi-pronged plan. NIH will free up hospital beds in the NIH Clinical Research Center. Forty beds today, and up to 100 over the next several days to care for the evacuated patients with cancer, psychiatric disease, or who are undergoing transplantation or immunotherapy. 

Help the American Hospital Association's response. 
HHS has activated its Emergency Hospital Network, and has enlisted the assistance of the AAMC's Council of Teaching Hospitals and Health Systems, and the decision has been made to provide a common channel of communication through the American Hospital Association. However, there will be a rising need for highly specialized consultation, evaluation, transfer.  The NIH is, therefore, organizing a medical response/consultation/triage center on the NIH campus. Dr. Zerhouni asked for establishment of a "virtual" system of consultation, triage, and referral, in partnership with the academic health centers around the country. This would include assisting with the evaluation and transfer of patients who have very specific, highly challenging medical conditions, who must be evacuated out of the disaster region due to the complexity of the care they require.

Dr. Zerhouni asked the group to establish a "Katrina Response Unit" in their respective institutions, with a contact person who could interact with the NIH triage facility. The goal is to enable the experts in the triage facility to interact directly with experts at the academic health centers. NIH will be identifying areas of acute need and will share with the AAMC membership. NIH will also assess the surge capacity of the medical centers. The NIH point of contact for those who want to participate in this network is Dr. Richard Wyatt. The point of contact at AAMC is Dr. David Korn.  The plan is to establish the consultation/triage facility as soon as possible, within days.