Gov. Perry Orders Health Commissioner to Develop Statewide Plan to Meet Short-term and Long-term Health Needs of Evacuees
Praises Tremendous Response of Texas Medical Community, Texas Citizens
Gov. Rick Perry today directed Texas Commissioner of Health Dr. Eduardo Sanchez to develop a statewide plan to address the short-term and long-term health needs of Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Texas.
"As Texas manages the needs of an unprecedented number of evacuees, it is clear that one of our chief concerns must be meeting the short-term and long-term healthcare needs of those with special needs, including children with disabilities and the frail and the elderly," Perry said. "I have asked Dr. Sanchez to quickly develop and implement a statewide healthcare plan so that every evacuee receives the medical attention, medicine and rehabilitation that can help them begin to reclaim a life of dignity. We will work to identify every need, and meet every challenge."
Perry also praised the tremendous response of Texas citizens and the medical community across the state, citing numerous cases where Texans have gone above and beyond the call of duty. For example, reports out of Lubbock appear to indicate that community has received, and is caring for, an entire Louisiana nursing home. San Antonio took in 80 children with special needs yesterday who traveled with three caregivers, and who arrived unannounced and unexpected. And yesterday Palestine took in 79 individuals in need of mental health and mental retardation services.
"The response from the medical community has been nothing short of amazing, but they are besieged with patients in need," Perry said. "The threat of an epidemic breaking out in shelters across the state is very real. The challenge of providing life-saving and life-sustaining care to a number of evacuees is immense. The need for mental health and social services is also great."
Perry made a special plea to licensed healthcare professionals from Louisiana - nurses, social workers, and more - who are already here in Texas to participate in this massive relief effort. The state has already cut through licensing red tape so their Louisiana license is good in Texas for a minimum of 45 days.
Perry also said the airlift operation Texas initiated yesterday is now under the direction of FEMA. For the time-being FEMA has put that operation on hold as it determines how to best handle the influx of evacuees.
"We initiated a diversion plan yesterday because we had no idea how many evacuees would continue to arrive in Texas as our largest cities reported they were at capacity," Perry said. "Many states remain committed to taking evacuees from Texas if FEMA should decide to re-route those who have been displaced from Texas. Nonetheless, we will do everything we can to meet this great human need."
"What we are dealing with here is an evacuation effort on a scale never seen before. It is an immense challenge and will continue to be so for a number of months," Perry said. "But we will continue to receive our neighbors with open arms because we know they have nowhere else to turn. We hope we can provide them not just food, water, shelter and medicine, but dignity and decency as they pick up the pieces of their lives."