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Haitian injured going statewide

1/27/2010 © Health News Florida
As the trauma centers and hospitals in South Florida cope with hundreds of injured Haitians, state emergency operations staff are now directing military airlift flights to Orlando and Tampa, with Jacksonville soon to follow. Tampa got its first load of 17 patients last night, with most going to Tampa General. 

A TV news crew in Tampa recorded the arrival Tuesday night of 17 patients aboard a military plane at Tampa International Airport, including 15 Haitians and two U.S. soldiers. Burn and spinal-cord injuries were taken to Tampa General Hospital, the Level 1 trauma center for the region. Military personnel were taken to James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa. 

(Editor's note: a previous version gave the wrong trauma level for Tampa General.)

Tampa was chosen, according to the televised report, because South Florida hospitals are becoming overwhelmed, and partially because those hospitals have to make room for injuries related to the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl.

But Tampa faces its Gasparilla Festival this weekend, which has historically been accompanied by carousing and injuries. So state emergency operations managers have notified Jacksonville to prepare to receive flights any time. 

It was time to take some stress off the hospitals in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, said Jaime Caldwell, vice president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. 

"We've cared for some 360 patients and some have had significant head and spinal cord injuries," he said. ""We've been the primary receiving area and I think they're trying to give our facilities a rest. They don't want to overwhelm the resources."

Which isn't to say that South Florida can't take any more Haitians if there's a need, said Jeanne Eckes-Roper of Broward Health, co-chair of the regional domestic security task force. "We will accept whatever the military has to land on us," she said.

It was part of the state's plan all along to use other regions as a relief valve for South Florida, she said. The financial strain on South Florida's health facilities is beginning to be felt, Miami Herald reports today. Jackson Health System, which has 100 Haitian patients, and the University of Miami, which set up a 300-bed field hospital in Port-au-Prince, are piling up expenses.