The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency in both North and South Carolina, as Hurricane Florence nears the East Coast.
The National Hurricane Center says life-threatening storm surge and flash flooding in the Carolinas and surrounding areas is "highly likely." The areas are also expected to see damaging winds of at least 140 mph.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said by making the declaration, QUOTE "Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid have continuous access to the care they need when the storm makes landfall."
Declaring a public health emergency gives health service providers greater flexibility in their decision making, in order to respond to emergency health situations.
HHS and FEMA also worked together to ensure that additional ambulances will be available in case hospitals and nursing homes need to evacuate.
Additional reporting by Newsy affiliate CNN.