SMAT II deploys to Louisiana, more shifts to follow

September 01, 2005
The State Medical Assistance Team unit based at New Hanover Regional Medical Center will deploy early tomorrow to Charlotte, with the expectation of continuing on to just outside of New Orleans as part of the relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The 20-member team includes NHRMC nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics and staff physicians, as well as personnel from hospitals in this region.

The SMAT II, purchased with federal grant funds, is designed to respond to disasters in this region, though its first deployment will be out-of-state on a mutual aid request from Louisiana. SMAT carries equipment and personnel – especially trained for these missions - necessary to set up a field hospital with up to 10 beds.

The team will leave NHRMC at 5 a.m. In Charlotte, it will meet with other SMAT teams from around the state, along with a mobile hospital unit based in Charlotte that has two operating room suites and can treat up to 100 patients. The entire convoy is then expected to continue to 1,000-mile trip to the Gulf region.

U.S. Marshals and National Guard personnel will provide security for the state teams.

The deployment will last nine days, seven for medical service and one for travel on either end. Then smaller relief teams will rotate into the region. The goal is to send relief teams every week, for at least the next six weeks.

This effort is not the same as the “federal medical shelters” described Wednesday by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt. This is a state response to a mutual aid request by Louisiana. The N.C. Department of Emergency Management and the state Office of EMS is coordinating the effort.

Mark Bennett is coordinating the SMAT, and Patricia Fields will lead the EMS component of the first deployment. Staff from the Emergency Department, EMS, VitaLink, AirLink and others around the hospital are taking part. Our team will be able to provide its own shelter and food.

All personnel will be paid as though on regular duty. All costs to the medical center will be reimbursed by the state, including the cost of “backfilling” positions to replace those who went to Louisiana.

Anyone who wishes to be part of a future deployment must first joint the SMAT team. Contact Sue Ballato, Trauma Services Director, for more information. This is an excellent way to contribute to the relief effort, as it guarantees your continuing pay and benefits, and that the hospital will be reimbursed for your services. Potential team members must complete five hours of online training, one hour for each session. More information will be provided soon on CapsulesLive on this training.

There will continue to be a need for other medical volunteers who want to be part of the “federal medical shelters” that Secretary Leavitt described Wednesday. We are awaiting more information from the N.C. Hospital Association on how many and what kind of volunteers are needed. These are different from the SMAT team members, but clinical personnel will be needed to staff those field hospitals.
Also, the Red Cross will be training volunteers to help in the recovery effort. The Red Cross’ requirement is that people be able to commit to at least two weeks. If you want to volunteer, you will need to clear this with your supervisor, then discuss your options with Human Resources. Diane Ellis is coordinating the Red Cross training. Her phone number is 762-2683 ext. 334; her email is EllisD@usa.redcross.org