NACHC has been closely following the developments in the destructive aftermath of Hurricane Florence and we are still patching together field reports from various sources. Widespread flooding is still being reported in North and South Carolina, making transportation and emergency medical aid difficult. Continued flooding is expected through the week.
According to a dispatch from our friends at the North Carolina Community Health Center Association: “Florence was a slow-moving storm and an even slower-moving disaster. Some of the rivers have not yet crested but will do so at historical levels. That means some health center CEOs and staff cannot even get to their sites for several more days to assess damages. We know that multiple sites have been damaged by flooding or are without power. Two health centers in particular, CommWell Health and Goshen Medical Center, with numerous sites throughout southeastern North Carolina, have suffered wind damage, flooding and power outages. NCCHCA is coordinating the use of a mobile medical unit from a nearby to assist with patient care and working to fast-track funding for recovery assistance.”
Several health centers in the affected areas have already received emergency health kits from Direct Relief (see blog post) designed to treat up to 100 patients for three to five days. There have also been medical backpacks delivered to supply providers for mobile care or shelter care and the organization is preparing to send in supplies of insulin. In addition to Direct Relief, there are a host of volunteers, relief organizations ready to donate medical supplies or manpower. With food and medicines hard to access, NC health officials have also announced efforts to make it easier for vulnerable families to access hot meals. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has also opened up medical shelters for people with complex health needs and is working with federal and county partners to provide additional flexibility to people enrolled in the Medicaid program and their health care providers during and after Hurricane Florence.
In South Carolina, we know several health center sites remain closed due to flooding. “Many areas of South Carolina were fortunate to be spared significant damage from Florence; however, the Grand Strand and Pee Dee regions did experience the wrath of this storm,” said Lathran Woodard, President and CEO of the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association. “We’ve had several centers in those areas close due to the power outage, flood damage and accessibility issues from road closures. Some sites are still closed today. South Carolina isn’t out of the woods yet as some of our sites prepare for possible flooding from Florence’s fallout. I believe our first responders and community health center leadership teams performed and are still performing excellently in the face of Hurricane/Tropical storm Florence. We are continuing to discover ways to better prepare for such disasters, especially when it comes to ensuring our patients who had to evacuate continue to be able to receive quality care from a sister FQHC. ”
A number of issues arise for health centers operating in disaster zones — from the scope of service questions to Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) considerations. NACHC has a targeted web page with emergency management technical assistance resources, including a link to the HRSA/BPHC Emergency Management/Disaster Relief resources page that can be accessed by visiting this link.
We will keep you posted on further developments as more information comes in.