Veterans left behind? Irma evacuations were botched, Florida VA center says


Time to evacuate Florida running out as Irma approaches

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief weighs in

Officials in Pinellas County, Fla., and the operators of a local medical center for veterans are pointing fingers about who’s reponsible for some 30 patients being left behind as Hurricane Irma struck Florida earlier this month.

The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center lays the blame on the county for not providing ambulances that were promised to transport the patients, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

However, the county argues that it did transfer some patients, but not to the Young Center’s requested locations.

That’s because the distance to get there wasn’t “safe or feasible at the time of the request,” James G. Fogarty, bureau director with Pinellas County Safety and Emergency Services, told the Times.   

Fogarty said there wasn’t enough time to transport patients on Interstate 75, which was already clogged with traffic, and he couldn’t leave the county stranded without any ambulances.

VA officials and Pinellas County are now in talks to ensure they won’t experience a similar issue in the future. 

Army veteran Lorraine Johnson-Mitchell, 59, who lost both legs due to a blood disorder and requires dialysis, was among the patients left behind at Young Center. She told the Times that things at the VA hospital “could have been handled a lot better.”

Young Center spokesman Jason Dangel said if the resources that were promised had arrived, “Many more patients would have been transferred out.”

Click here for more from the Tampa Bay Times.


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