PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - As Irma bears down on Florida, a group of medical professionals from Maine began their journey south to help victims of the hurricane and other patients in need.
About a dozen of them are putting their jobs and lives on hold to become part of the federal government’s National Disaster Medical System. They began the first leg of their trip Saturday morning at the Portland Jetport.
Tony Simpson is a physician assistant from Norway, Maine. For at least the next several days he’ll be part of a special medical team made up of doctors, nurses, technicians and pharmacists from across the country helping hurricane victims in Florida.
“With the hurricane coming into Florida, the government has got all hands on deck and they’re moving a massive number of personnel into the area”, Simpson said.
Simpson is being joined by several other Mainers on the trip, including Nate Conteras, a Scarborough Fire Captain and emergency room nurse.
“Well there are people that are suffering and need help and that’s what we specialize in so, let’s go do our job”, he said.
Contreras just got back from a mission in Texas.
“We were there for ten days. Yah, we’re tired, but we’re ready to go again. This is what we do”, he said.
With hospitals in Irma’s projected path already being evacuated, the team will set up somewhere in Florida and take over emergency room duties.
“So we make a mobile emergency room. We might get stationed in an existing facility or we might have to put our own tents up. So we’re a self sufficient group”, said Simpson.
Members say being part of this federal team is their way to give back. They make their own personal sacrifices to do it, leaving their families and jobs behind.
“It’s a commitment from the community that allows us to go. It’s a big thanks to our families, a big thanks to our employers and everyone who works with us”, Simpson said.
The crew isn’t sure just how long they’ll be deployed. They’ve been told they’ll be away for anywhere from 14 days, up to 30 days.
The US Department of Health and Human Services is always looking for medical professionals to join the team. You can learn more by visiting the HHS website.