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Published: Thursday, 10/6/2005

Medical teams still busy, needed in hurricane zone

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The water has begun to recede and some people have returned home, but the work in those areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina is far from over.

Just ask Kelly Burkholder-Allen, who has spent the last week and a half administering vaccines to protect construction workers rebuilding the area and residents who are going home.

A member of the Toledo Area Disaster Medical Assistance Team, or TADMAT, Ms. Burkholder-Allen, a nurse, is among many area residents still in Louisiana. An adjunct assistant professor in the department of public health at the Medical University of Ohio, she hopes to return home this week.

"The people who have passed through our vaccination clinics, it's incredible the sad stories that they have. Everybody has a sad story," she said via cell phone. "But I have to tell you, the people who I have encountered have been exceptionally thankful. They know that help is here, and they're getting the things they need."

Though many volunteers have trickled home in the weeks since the hurricane, Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, or DMATs, from across the country are still mobilized in the most damaged areas under the umbrella of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

About 250 medical professionals are there helping, said Stephen Allen, management support team commander for FEMA. Also, 150 morticians and about 30 to 40 veterinarians are in Louisiana, Mr. Allen said.

"Our mission is supporting the few hospitals that are open, and supporting the mobile hospitals that have been set up," he said in a telephone interview from Washington. "Our feeling is that the DMAT mission is going to go on for quite a long time."

Others from the Toledo area arrived in the New Orleans area yesterday, Ms. Burkholder-Allen said. Teams are being rotated in every 10 to 14 days.

Teams from across the country arrived in the Gulf region prior to Hurricane Katrina's landfall in late August. Since then, the teams have treated more than 100,000 patients, FEMA officials said. Fifty-five teams from across the nation deploy to disaster sites to provide medical care.

The local team can remain self-sufficient for up to 72 hours and can treat up to 250 victims a day. The team consists of more than 125 medical personnel.

"When we are deployed, whatever the assignment we are given is what we do," Ms. Burkholder-Allen said. "No matter what you're doing, it's part of the whole response."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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