Friday, October 28, 2016

Louisiana Home Medical Equipment Providers Hold Out a Lifeline to Flooded Communities

(3rd Installment: Home Medical Equipment Providers Overcome Major Storms to Help Patients)

Home medical equipment (HME) suppliers have a long track record of making sure their patients get the products and services they need during natural disasters.  August’s catastrophic floods in much of Louisiana provides the latest examples of the extraordinary efforts undertaken by companies to serve their communities in extremely challenging conditions.

Apria Healthcare’s employees in Louisiana have been working around the clock to ensure continuity of care for approximately 700 patients with lost or flood-damaged equipment, many of whom have had to evacuate their homes.

While Apria’s branches in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Alexandria have been on the front lines making sure their patients are cared for, their locations in New Orleans, Shreveport, and Beaumont, TX also provided inventory.  In addition, Apria is sending tractor trailers loaded with respiratory equipment to Baton Rouge to replace damaged, lost equipment and to ensure there are enough portable cylinders to accommodate ambulatory needs of their patients.

Apria’s ability to respond quickly in these situations is the result of extensive preparation and advance planning for emergency situations.  Every branch at Apria has a pre-planned emergency preparedness plan, which includes identifying and contacting high acuity patients and all respiratory patients who need oxygen, and making sure they are triaged accordingly.  Apria staffers also coordinate with local authorities and public safety personnel to set up staging areas to meet patients if they are displaced to receive services.

“These unique situations require an extraordinary effort to replace damaged or lost equipment and help keep patients intact and avoid costly hospital visits,” said Bill Guidetti, Executive Vice President, East for Apria.  “From Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy to fires in the West, and now the flooding in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Apria is on call for our patients.”

“Home medical equipment providers take great pride in helping to keep people out of hospitals and other clinical settings all year long,” added Guidetti.  “This role becomes even more important during times like these when healthcare and emergency services personnel are under extra pressure.”

Many HME company personnel have been helping others while trying to deal with significant challenges themselves, as evidenced by efforts by two Respiratory Therapists (RT) with Lafayette-based respiratory services provider Viemed.

Adam North, an RT in Baton Rouge, started out the week with three-and-a-half feet of water in his home and his company delivery vehicle.  Fortunately, he had bought a 20-year-old pickup truck from one of his patients the previous month.   Adam worked all week driving his “new” truck, responding to calls from patients whose non-invasive ventilator equipment was damaged or left behind in the haste to escape the quickly rising floodwaters.  

In many cases, he had to seek them out at a relative's house or in an emergency housing shelter.

Matt Bourg, an RT in nearby Denham Springs, had similar experiences, but fortunately did not suffer water coming into his house.  Matt’s efforts included meeting up with a patient discharging from the hospital evacuating to his daughter's house.   That patient had left his ventilator at home, which was under eight feet of water; Viemed replaced that equipment, and has done so in several other instances.

“We’ve replaced a lot of equipment in the last week, even though we’re not obligated to do so and it’s not clear if or how we’ll get compensated for that,” said Max Hoyt, president & CEO of Viemed. “It’s times like these that remind us that just doing the right thing is the best business practice.”

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