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US Coast Guard warns passenger ships about medevacs

USCG outlned a new procedure for requesting medevacs of individuals with influenza-like symptoms
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, many more ships are requesting medical evacuations, challenging shoreside hospitals in the US Coast Guard's Southeast district.

USCG's Seventh District commander has directed ships carrying more than 50 people to be prepared to care for individuals with influenza-like illnesses on board for an 'indefinite period of time.'

Based in Miami, the Seventh District covers Florida, Puerto Rico, Georgia and South Carolina.

According to a March 29 Marine Safety Information Bulletin, medevacs from foreign passenger vessels, of both stable and critically ill people with influenza-like illnesses, including COVID-19, have increased.

Miami no longer accepting medevac patients

And strains on local medical resources throughout the Seventh District are expected to increase, Rear Adm. E.C. Jones, district commander, said in the bulletin. For example, medical facilities at Miami are no longer accepting medevac patients due to limited hospital capacity and it is expected neighboring counties will follow suit.

'It must be considered a potential evacuee has better access to comfortable surroundings and medical staff on board the foreign passenger vessel where care is already being provided,' Jones continued. 'To ensure the safety of persons on board and mitigate the potential of overwhelming local medical services, all vessels operating within the Seventh District AOR with more than 50 persons on board should increase their medical capabilities, personnel and equipment in order to care for individuals with [influenza-like illnesses] for an indefinite period of time. This is necessary as shoreside medical facilities may reach full capacity and lose the ability to accept and treat additional critically ill patients.'

New procedure

Vessels requesting medevacs of people with influenza-like illnesses were directed to communicate with the Joint Rescue Coordination Center Miami or San Juan to consult with a Coast Guard flight surgeon who will determine the medical needs. Only then, with concurrence of a search and rescue coordinator and confirmed availability of a hospital facility, will a medevac be considered.

Bahamas-registered ships

'Foreign-flag vessels that loiter beyond US territorial seas, particularly those registered to the Bahamas, that require a medevac to a shoreside facility should seek flag-state support prior to seeking support from the limited facilities in the US,' the bulletin said.

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