Local News

Many Patients From Gulf Region In Triangle To Avoid Rita

Posted September 23, 2005 9:34 a.m. EDT

— Some hospital patients from the Gulf hoping to escape from Rita's projected path are in the Triangle. They arrived at RDU International early Friday morning.

Twenty ambulances, 40 paramedics and dozens of doctors and nurses are all part of the response by Wake County and surrounding counties to treat patients in the path of Rita.

"We're ready to go. We had lots of opportunity to practice," said Wake EMS Chief Skip Kirkwood.

In response to Hurricane Rita's potential impact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency activated the National Disaster Medical System. According to the NDMS, more than 2,000 patients will need to be flown out of the Hurricane Rita impact area and redistributed across six possible NDMS locations around the country that can accommodate the patients in their surrounding hospitals.

At 5:30 a.m. Friday, the first group of evacuees from Texas arrived at RDU with 32 people on board, of which 10 were hospitalized. The second plane landed at 8:15 a.m. with 100 people on board, of which one person was hospitalized.

A real-life run-through came after Katrina hit. Emergency responders turned a National Guard hangar at RDU internationl into a makeshift clinic. Now, it will be ready to meet the health-care needs of patients from Texas.

"The information that we have now is that of these 32 patients, 15 of them are wheelchair patients, another 15 are medical status unknown and require evaluation by a physician," Kirkwood said.

Ambulances are ready to transport the most critical patients. The others will go to the triage center at the armory, receive treatment and then transported to a hospital.

Twenty-two hospitals in eight counties will make room for the patients. More patients are expected to arrive later Friday morning.