Within a fortnight of the category four Hurricane Harvey that hit the Texas coastline, Hurricane Irma blasted home health care providers in Florida over the weekend.
Health care providers began preparing for the worst several days ahead of the storm, as Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency and many coastal zones evacuated. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price similarly declared a public health emergency in Florida.
The strength of the storm as it passed through the Atlantic Ocean was on par with the highest winds ever recorded prior to it hitting the U.S. With the recent devastation in Texas from Hurricane Harvey on their minds, home care providers in the state took all precautions to prepare.
“Across Florida, home care providers are taking Hurricane Irma very seriously and have initiated preparations to a degree that we have not seen in past years, no doubt motivated by what our colleagues in Texas experienced during Hurricane Harvey,” Bobby Lolley, executive director of the Home Care Association of Florida (HCAF), told Home Health Care News on Friday. “If there can be any silver lining from that ongoing disaster, it’s that Irma will claim far fewer lives here in Florida because of those lessons learned.”
Palm Beach Preparations
In Palm Beach, Florida, where President Trump’s Mar-a-Largo beach club sits, the owner of a Senior Helpers franchise was working around the clock to ensure client and caregiver safety ahead of the storm. Senior Helpers, founded in 2001, has more than 311 franchise locations across the globe and offers personal care and companion services.
Many caregivers remained with clients through the storm, beginning around-the-clock care Friday evening. Of the franchise’s 80 or so clients, a number of them are rated as the most vulnerable and need care throughout the entire hurricane.
Other clients were helped out with supplies, medications and property preparations by caregivers and coordinators from Senior Helpers, Michael Mohl, owner of the Palm Beach franchise, told HHCN on Friday.
“We have caregivers and the office working around the clock for this,” he said of the preparations. “We shut down Tuesday morning [to start preparing]. We go through all the clients and make sure they have their insurance plans. Every house we are in has a list of mandatory hurricane supplies, the caregiver goes over and puts out whatever they need. We contact a couple handymen companies to put up storm shutters if needed. ”
Having gone through Hurricane Matthew in 2007, Mohl was taking every step to ensure clients were cared for during Irma, including paying out of pocket for carriers to remain with clients in the seniors living communities where the providers has clients. The cost of this expense, expected to be in the thousands of dollars to Mohl, was an afterthought, he said.
“I was sitting there going, how can I take care of all these people?” he said. “It was a decision my wife and I made. We started the company 10 years and we said, what do we need to do? It’s just the right thing to do. I don’t know how I couldn’t have done it.”
During the storm, the company keeps a 24/7 live system running where caregivers can call in and text in the event a client and caregiver move to a shelter or executive other evacuation plans.
As of Sunday night, Irma’s winds had weakened as it approached Florida, though its reaches extended across the entire state and as expected to maintain hurricane strength through Monday morning, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Another home health care provider, Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED), similarly began preparations early last week when Floridians began to see gas shortages as hundreds of thousands started evacuating coastal cities. While Irma was originally anticipated to directly hit Miami, it since veered west to the Gulf of Mexico side of the state. However, Amedisys was still making preparations in other states where the storm could have an impact.
“The safety of our people and our patients is our main priority,” an Amedisys spokesperson told HHCN Friday. “We started having twice daily calls with our Florida leadership and care centers earlier in the week to implement our emergency preparedness plans, including contacting our patients daily. We’ve also sent a fuel truck to Florida (along with water) to fill up our clinicians’ cars so that they can continue to see patients without waiting in the long gas lines. With the uncertainty of the hurricane’s path, we’ve started our emergency preparedness plan in Georgia, North Caroline and South Carolina as well.”
Written by Amy Baxter