VA deploys mobile medical teams to North Carolina in wake of Hurricane Matthew


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What looked like a large, patriotically decorated recreational vehicle left the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital campus in Tampa Oct. 12, not bound for a camping trip but rather for a humanitarian mission.

Hospital motor vehicle operator Anthony Jimenez is driving the 46-foot-long, 33,000 pound mobile medical unit (MMU) north to assist with disaster recovery efforts in the area around Fayetteville, North Carolina. The area was hard hit with massive flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew, which brought heavy rain that caused rivers to overflow and dams to break in the central and eastern parts of the state.

Tampa's Mobile Medical Unit

Tampa’s Mobile Medical Unit has been deployed to North Carolina to provide medical care to Veterans impacted by flooding after Hurricane Matthew.

The MMU has three medical exam rooms, a wheelchair lift, satellite communications, and is completely self-contained with an electrical generator and toilet facilities. Jimenez is participating in this deployment as part of the Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS), the Veterans Health Administration’s main deployment program for clinical and non-clinical staff to support an emergency or disaster.

“At times of disaster, the fourth mission of the VA is to provide support to our community partners and to our civilian population,” said Travis Garrett, a VA emergency management specialist from Tampa. “Presidential declarations have already been issued for, I believe, 66 counties in that area, so everything that needed to be done to be able to afford the help that the VA is providing has been done.  So this is just the first round of getting all these things in place to provide that level of care, whether it be to a Veteran or a citizen.”

Jimenez and the MMU rendezvoused in Fayetteville with VA team members deployed from other areas of the country around midnight Oct. 13 after an almost 700 mile drive. Since VA employees in the area were also affected by the disaster, DEMPS personnel will be used to augment local employees to ensure continuity of health care operations, Garrett said.

Jimenez, who volunteered for this mission, is no stranger to deployments. An Army Veteran, he deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, but this is something different for him.

“I’m feeling anxious and a little bit nervous because I don’t know really what to expect,” Jimenez said. “But I’m mostly excited to do it because I know something of this magnitude has a big impact on our Veterans.  I feel like I’m doing something very positive.  I know that somebody needs assistance up there, so I can help provide that assistance.”

Author

Ed Drohan

Ed Drohan is a public affairs specialist, at the James A. Haley VA Hospital, Tampa, Florida, and a retired Air Force master sergeant who has reported from Somalia, Haiti, New Orleans (post-Katrina) and Afghanistan.

Comments

  1. G. J. Johnson    

    Promises made have not been kept for most veterans, myself included. I disagree with the “fourth mission” as stated in this article unless it was sent to serve our veteran/military population only. Our government has other assets that can be sent for situations such as these. I believe that the Veteran’s Administration should be reimbursed for the cost of this deployment by other governmental agency’s such as FEMA?
    Today we learned that veteran’s/active service members, in the state of California, are being asked to repay bonuses paid to them many years ago. Maybe this resource should be deployed to California to help our veterans and service members to deal with this financial crisis that the Department of Defense has leveled on them. This is shameful!

  2. keith markovitch    

    Every veteran is as much a civilian as a vet . If we can not join with our fellow humans in time of crisis we are the problem not the remedy . I’m sure if you had a V A appointment and could not get to the clinic for what ever reason , but were able to arrive at the MMU you would have had your problems addressed . In a situation like this any and all assets need to be used . The Natioal Gaurd was out in force ,they may have needed care for an injury. If you’ve never been around the flood waters of an inner city you would not understand the need for as much medical response as possible . It is not just water it is everything that ever was in that city.

  3. William Titus Asbury    

    Typical Vts on the east coast of Florida can go to hell screw them they live in florida. Never mind it migh be under a bridge or in some bushy area but florida. They don’t need help.. So we’ll go to North Carolins instead.

    1. Miriam Holy    

      Veterans are all over, and also subject to the flooding and horrors. VA has the medical records, some vets don’t go to outside to know what medicines they are on. My husband an army vet and RN employed by VA, was part of DEMPs during Katrina in new Orleans. He went from Baltimore to new Orleans and was greatly needed by vets and civilians. Humanity stretched beyond boundaries.

  4. Juan Tejeda    

    As much as I agree that our government is compelled to assist our cities when disasters occur and it is their responsibility to do so. I also believe that the use of services that have been put together for our veterans that those services not be making sided. The government does not do enough for our veterans and it is misusing those services by sending this mobile hospital and personnel to a civilian disaster, be it natural or human caused.
    If they are going to use those services the expense for that use should be at the expense of the government and any expenditures made need to be reimbursed by the government and not have to come out the already taxed budget of the VA and passed on to the veterans that are not being taken care of now.
    It seems like a great project for use for services to our veterans.

    1. Dennis Dixon    

      I agree with you Juan. This is misuse of fundsm resources and personnel that SHOULD be dedicated to supporting the medical needs of the veteran community. We have plenty of active duty medical personnel and resources that can be trained, equipped and ready to deploy for such emergencies, not to mention those hurricane susceptible states that can develop their own contingency plans. Where is FEMA in this?

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