The U.S. military has resumed medical evacuation flights from Haiti to hospitals in the United States, ending a four-day suspension, a military spokesman said Monday.
Army Col. Gregory Kane, speaking in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, said a medical evacuation flight left for the United States on Sunday night, but gave no details.
The White House said earlier that a suspension imposed on Wednesday was being lifted because it has been assured that there is space for the patients at U.S. and foreign hospitals.
"We determined that we can resume these critical flights," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor. "Patients are being identified for transfer, doctors are making sure that it is safe for them to fly, and we are preparing specific in-flight pediatric care aboard the aircraft where needed."
Several hospitals were damaged or destroyed in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck on Jan. 12, a calamity that killed as many as 200,000 people and left much of the country's infrastructure in ruins.
Hundreds need specialized care
The U.S. had airlifted out hundreds of Haitian earthquake victims on the flights but stopped the flights Wednesday over apparent concerns over where to put the patients and perhaps over how to pay for them.
Doctors in Haiti said hundreds of people would likely die without specialized care. A handful travelled on civilian aircraft after the airlift suspension, but aid groups have said this can be expensive.
Why the suspension occurred in the first place is still unclear. Military officials have said some states refused to take patients, though officials in Florida, one of the main destinations, said no patients were turned away. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he did send a letter asking for federal help in covering patient expenses, and said on Sunday that this request may have been misinterpreted.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been asked to build a 250-bed tent hospital to relieve pressure on an American navy hospital ship and on Haitian facilities where quake victims are being treated under tarpaulins in hospital grounds.
DART on the move
Members of Canada's military mobile medical unit spent Sunday in the small community of Tom Gato. The 13-member group from Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team treated between 130 and 140 patients for fractured arms, broken hips, a broken pelvis and other injuries.
Capt. Rob Ennis, a doctor based at CFB Gagetown, N.B., said the thanks the Canadians received were equal to the medical care dispensed, calling Sunday "a fantastic day for all of us."
Canada's military plans to send one medical team each day to areas where help is urgently needed.