U.S. hospitals providing care to people with life-threatening injuries caused by the earthquake in Haiti can receive federal reimbursements for their costs, the agency coordinating the U.S. government's response to the devastation said Monday.
The USAID said the activation will allow the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to send flights with critically injured survivors to the United States. The first flight could leave today, the agency said. Hospitals that treat qualified patients may receive federal payments at 110% of Medicare rates, the agency said.
"States have been tremendous partners in the response effort to the devastating earthquake in Haiti," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "This is part of our larger strategy, working with the government of Haiti and our international partners to help increase the capacity both inside Haiti, as well as in the U.S. and other countries, to help Haitians who need critical medical assistance.
Haitian and American patients will be referred by Haitian hospitals, non-government organizations, USNS Comfort, or other facilities if they meet criteria for evacuation, said a USAID release. "These evacuations are being reserved for the rare patients with life-threatening conditions that cannot be handled within Haiti or by evacuation to another country. There must also be a reasonable chance that the patient can survive the flight and the treatment in the U.S."
The statement said that accredited hospitals—usually those with more than 100 beds in size and located in large U.S. metro areas—are encouraged to enter into voluntary agreement with the NDMS. Hospitals are asked to agree to commit a number of their acute care beds, subject to availability, for NDMS patients. However, hospitals that volunteer to take these patients may provide more or fewer beds than the number committed in the agreement.
Approximately 270 health and medical personnel from the NDMS system are in Haiti as part of the federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams. "These teams have seen more than 23,000 patients, performed 98 surgeries, and delivered 28 babies since they began providing care in Haiti on January 17 and continue to provide life-saving medical care on the ground," the USAID statement said.