Hurricane Irene is this week’s big news, and I can’t help but think if Inga was on the East Coast this is what she would be wearing. All kidding aside, I’m glad to see friends and colleagues start checking in on Facebook and other social outlets to let people know they are OK.
Unfortunately, it’s not over yet. Air travel will likely be a mess most of this week. Several friends can’t get flights until at least Thursday.
Once the winds are gone, flooding is the next problem. For those of you in affected areas, I hope your disaster recovery and business continuity plans are working without a hitch. For those of you who haven’t shared in the bounty of natural disasters we’ve seen in the US this year, it’s a good opportunity to review those plans and consider a drill.
Numerous East Coast hospitals evacuated patients. Others canceled elective procedures to reduce census numbers and make room to receive evacuees and potential casualties. Some suspended visiting hours or made arrangements for staff to stay in the facility after their shifts were over to prevent them from having to go out into dangerous conditions (not to mention that it might be handy to keep them in-house should relief staffers not make it in).
One colleague reported using her electronic medical record’s patient portal site to push messages to pregnant patients, instructing them what to do if they should go into labor during the storm. Another mentioned a communication from the Department of Defense’s TRICARE program saying that patients in affected areas may be eligible for a waiver of the Primary Care Manager referral requirement as well as emergency “refill too soon” procedures to ensure patients have needed medications.
Providers who personally experienced the impact of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 shared their experiences and recommendations over the last several years and it appears that many organizations took these to heart. I’m not seeing too many reports of hospitals that were severely affected, and I hope most if not all continue to remain unscathed throughout any flooding. It’s not looking good in Montpelier, VT where officials are considering flooding the capital to save a dam.
I’ve personally experienced some significant flooding and am a veteran of sandbagging. I’m always disturbed by the photos of people outside in the storms or defying evacuation orders. I hope folks in New Paltz, NY return to their senses. Due to the large number of people gathered to watch flooding, officials had to ban alcohol sales and order people off the streets.
If you’re among those impacted by Irene, the thoughts and prayers of the HIStalk team are with you. Stay safe.