Martinsburg VAMC supports Puerto Rico relief efforts - Martinsburg VA Medical Center
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Martinsburg VAMC supports Puerto Rico relief efforts

October 27, 2017

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When disasters occur, like hurricane Maria slamming Puerto Rico. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees provide assistance through the Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS). DEMPS is the Veterans Health Administration main deployment program for clinical and non-clinical support staff during and emergency or disaster.

Recently, two Martinsburg VA Medical Center (VAMC) employees returned from providing assistance in Puerto Rico. “I received a call around 4 p.m. Saturday,” said Lisa Longley, a registered nurse (RN) at the Martinsburg VAMC.  At that moment I stopped everything and prepared to leave the next day,” Longley and other employees departed the following day for Puerto Rico. “As soon as we landed you could see the devastation,” she said.

Once they landed they headed to the Federal Medical Station (FMS). The FMS is managed by Department of Health and Human Services managers and the VA. By the end of their first day on the ground, limited care was being provided to the community. By the second day the FMS became a fully functional medical station. With more than 70 employees working 12 hour shifts the mission was clear, “Our priority was taking care of patients,” said Julie Moneagle, an RN, at the Martinsburg VAMC. They provided care to patients ranging in age from two months to 102 years old. Some of their scariest moments were watching the electricity flicker while having over five patients on ventilators.

This was not only a VA effort, but a community focused effort. “Every day the environment changed, you never knew who was going to come through the door,” said Moneagle.

Everyone there is actively giving the best health care they can with the challenging conditions. When asked if they would go back, both Longley and Moneagle said with no hesitation, “yes.”

In the 14 days they were there, they saw 40 inpatients and 1300 outpatients come into the FMS. By the time Longley and Moneagle were ready to return to the Martinsburg, the FMS was seeing 150 to 200 patients a day. “The experience blessed me more than I blessed them,” said Longley.

Currently we have seven employees deployed with more deployments of employees in the near future. As of today, 90 percent of the country is still without power and the entire infrastructure has been destroyed “We anticipate the need lasting into the New Year as the need for employees to serve will remain high,” said Todd Lake, the emergency manager at the medical center.