Evacuated hospital patients from Puerto Rico, Caribbean Islands - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Evacuated hospital patients from Puerto Rico, Caribbean Islands arrive in the Midlands

(Source: WISTV) (Source: WISTV)
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

In Puerto Rico, people are still dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Maria and they will be for a while.  

Power is still out and the gas supply is low along with cell service for communications. Rescue efforts are still underway. Authorities have said power could be out in some places for four to six months, maybe even longer. 

The recovery process could certainly take years. 

All hands were on deck at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport on Monday as the state continues to help medically evacuated hospital patients from Puerto Rico and islands hit by Hurricane Maria.  

On Sunday, four critical patients arrived from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to be transported to one of 12 Midlands hospitals for treatment and more patients were expected to arrive on Monday.  

Two of those patients are being treated at Palmetto Health hospitals. 

On Monday, the airport got busy once again.  

"Yesterday we got reports that it could be up to 300 patients that they have to move,” Jeff Straub of Spartanburg Regional Healthcare said.

Currently, it’s unknown just how many patients South Carolina could receive in all or how long they will stay. Each patient's health condition varies from critical to stable.  

"It could be cardiac, neuro,” Straub explained, “all matters that PR can no longer take care of."  

This is the first time in United States history that the Department of Defense has activated the Natural Disaster Medical System program and it's happening right here in Columbia - one of only three places in the United States.    

"I don't know that we get any benefit other than we are helping those in need,” Jonathan Calore, Incident Commander with SCFC said. “That's the whole thing behind the NDMS program. We are helping those in need from another location." 

The state and hospitals will get reimbursed through FEMA. As of now they are unsure how long they will be activated at the airport but are ready to receive more patients.

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