COA Supports Federal Initiatives Upgrading U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

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The Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service enthusiastically backs plans announced by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to enlarge and enhance the 117-year-old Commissioned Corps.

Jerry Farrell, Executive Director of the Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service (COA) said today that his group supports initiatives made public Wednesday by Health And Human Services Mike Leavitt that would upgrade the 117-year old Commissioned Corps.

More than 75 percent of active-duty and retired members of the Commissioned Corps are members of the Association, which has for years been urging the Department and members of Congress to take steps to “transform” the Corps.

On Wednesday, Secretary Leavitt did just that. He said he would increase the size of the Corps by ten percent to a total of 6,600 active-duty officers. He also announced planned improvements in several areas including response operations, deployment, recruitment, and personal incentive programs. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he promised a better approach to assigning officers.

Secretary Leavitt termed the Commissioned Corps an “essential resource” and an “elite force” that deserves to be better-equipped to meet the public health needs and necessities of the future.

A major factor in his thinking, the Secretary said, was the impressive response of the Corps to the 2005 hurricanes. More than 2,000 officers were deployed, representing over a third of the active-duty force of 6,000. PHS officers landed in Louisiana before hurricane Katrina struck, and within 36 hours had set up a field hospital and were treating patients. PHS officers continued to lead relief efforts throughout the Gulf Coast states, and today they are aiding reconstruction.

The U.S. Public Health Service was created in 1798. Originally called the Marine Hospital Service, its mission was to provide care for sailors who were sick, injured, disabled or destitute. The Commissioned Corps was created in 1889.


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