Study objective: To describe the type of medical care that disaster medical assistance teams (DMATs) provided to a community struck by a major hurricane.
Study design: A prospective study describing the use of DMAT field clinics by a population affected by a major hurricane. Data regarding the type of medical care provided to disaster victims and the acuity of each patient's medical condition were abstracted from medical charts at each field clinic.
Setting: Three DMAT field clinics that provided medical care to residents of Kauai, Hawaii, after Hurricane Iniki struck the island on September 11, 1992.
Results: From September 16 to 19, 1992, three DMATs provided medical care to 614 people. The patients' average age was 34 years, and 60% were male. The largest treatment categories were injury (40.4%), illness (38.6%), and preventive services (9.0%). Most illnesses and injuries were minor, and 99% of the patients were ambulatory. Only 33 patients (5.4%) were referred to another medical provider. Referrals were generally for procedures not available in DMAT field clinics rather than for life-threatening conditions.
Conclusion: DMATs sent to assist with the medical needs of a US community struck by a major hurricane should be prepared to deliver basic medical services and primary health care. The need for these medical services will continue beyond the impact phase of a hurricane disaster.