The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing Tuesday to examine the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) preparedness for and response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
The hearing follows a recent bipartisan letter sent from committee leaders to Jack Michael, owner of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Florida, which lost 14 residents after the center’s air conditioning failed due to effects from Hurricane Irma.
“This committee has been conducting oversight of the federal response to the recent hurricanes since shortly after Harvey made landfall in Texas. Unfortunately, I expect that our work here will continue for years to come,” Subcommittee Vice Chairman U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) said.
Griffith continued, stating that the committee’s jurisdiction involved not just public health issues, but also rebuilding the electric grid, addressing environmental cleanup and restoring telecommunications.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the magnitude of the hurricanes, and their historic impacts required the FDA to engage in ways it had not before in order to minimize the effects on consumers, health care delivery, and the U.S. medical supply.
HHS’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec said his agency’s strategy in hurricane response had been three-fold including saving lives, stabilizing the healthcare system, then restoring services.
“In some areas, such as Puerto Rico, we are still in the response mode of saving lives and stabilizing health care services,” Kadlec said.
Stephen C. Redd, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office of Health Preparedness and Response, said the CDC recognized that the full recovery from the recent hurricanes would take some time, particularly for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands where damage was extensive.
“We will continue to work with FEMA, and all of our federal partners, over the next several years during this long period of recovery,” Redd said.