From the Carolinas to New England, durable medical equipment providers spent much of the past three or four days preparing their customers for Hurricane Irene. Of particular concern to the companies are people who require supplemental medical oxygen, which is often supplied by an electric concentrator. During a power outage or evacuation, having an adequate back-up supply is essential to the health of the oxygen users, many of whom are Medicare beneficiaries.
Mark Richardson at Home MediService in Havre de Grace, Maryland, said his company received at least 58 Hurricane Irene-related calls over the weekend and the company made two dozen trips to visit oxygen users on Sunday alone. “Many of our patients were very impressed that their oxygen company would take the time to call them and make sure they had adequate back-up. Many were very thankful that we went out in that storm to make sure that they weren’t at risk.”
In Sandwich, Massachusetts a home medical equipment provider made numerous deliveries to home oxygen patients in the Cape Cod region over the past several days and providers in Ephrata, Pennsylvania put all delivery, clinical, and management staff on alert for the weekend and lined up gas and liquid oxygen supplies. A registered respiratory therapist and operations manager in Ephrata, said high winds and heavy rains produced power outages over the weekend and the company delivered extra oxygen supplies to 10 patients on Sunday.
Home medical equipment providers in other mid-Atlantic and New England states also helped patients beginning as early as Thursday, August 25, lining up extra supplies and contacting patients.
A provider of medical equipment in Matthews, North Carolina, said, “Although Hurricane Irene posed no real threat to the Charlotte area, we used this as an opportunity to kick our emergency preparedness plan into gear for a practice run. We called all of our oxygen patients to ensure that all their back up tanks were, in fact, full and that they had a plan in the event of an extended power outage. I look at this exercise as a win-win as our customers were very appreciative of our proactive efforts and we had the chance to practice our emergency plan. We were fortunate to have avoided Irene’s path.”
These are just some of types of extra steps taken by hundreds of durable medical equipment providers nationwide during emergencies -- whether caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, excessive heat, flooding, ice storms, or heavy snows. The companies receive no extra compensation from Medicare for providing emergency services. Companies responded with extra calls and visits during the July-August heat wave and during the flooding that struck Tennessee and neighboring states this Spring.