GAO: HHS Should Address Deficiencies Highlighted by Recent Hurricanes in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

“Why GAO Did This Study

Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico within two weeks of each other in September 2017, causing catastrophic damage. HHS is responsible for leading the federal public health and medical services response during a disaster, such as these hurricanes. As part of its lead federal role during these hurricanes, HHS called upon support agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs, to assist with the public health and medical services response…”

“What GAO Found

The catastrophic destruction encountered as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria proved overwhelming to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rican governments and resulted in a large federal disaster response, complicated by losses of power, communication, and health care infrastructure. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) led the federal public health and medical services response and undertook numerous actions to address the needs in the territories—including evacuating critical care and dialysis patients from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and providing medical personnel and facilities…”

“What GAO Recommends

GAO is making seven recommendations, including that HHS develop agreements with support agencies that include response capability and limitation information, and develop response plans for providing care in isolated communities. HHS disagreed with two of the seven citing, among other things, territory responsibility for plans. GAO clarified the intent of the two recommendations and believes that all seven are warranted.” Access the full 53-page report here.

Source: HHS Should Address Deficiencies Highlighted by Recent Hurricanes in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico – September 20, 2019. GAO.

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