Tuesday, August 29, 2017
There was a lot of sad news this past week, especially the news about the damage that Hurricane Harvey has brought to Texas. I read a story about SNF residents in waist-high water awaiting evacuation. This brought back memories of Katrina and stranded residents then. The New York Times article, Behind the Photo of the Older Women in Waist-High Water in Texas, notes that there was some back and forth regarding the authenticity of the photo as the photo went viral. Ultimately, the residents were evacuated, as the article explains
On Sunday afternoon ... An evacuation was underway and the residents — more than a dozen — were being relocated... [A] Galveston County commissioner, confirmed on Sunday that the residents had been rescued, though he could not say for sure how many... He said the furor over the photo was not what brought emergency responders to the scene...“We knew about it before it hit social media,” he said. “We were working on a solution for the nursing home, and it was in progress, so social media can sometimes leave one with the wrong impression.”
A follow-up article in the Times, Houston’s Hospitals Treat Storm Victims and Become Victims Themselves discusses the impact on the "medically vulnerable" and what lessons were learned from Katrina. A number of improvements were made, as the article notes, but "[w]hile some vulnerable hospitals and nursing homes opted to move their patients out of the region in the hours before the storm, ... others “did not know to necessarily expect this level of chaos.” A large coalition of medical providers had drilled and planned regularly for catastrophes ... 'but honestly, not at this epic level.'" The article notes a change in the federal rule after Katrina has helped; it "requires a wide range of health providers to establish emergency plans —[which has] ... led to significantly better preparedness among nursing homes."
Federal health officials also analyzed Medicare claims to provide Texas officials with the likely addresses of homebound people who rely on power-dependent ventilators, oxygen concentrators and electric wheelchairs, among other needs. Responders also used the state’s voluntary registry to locate them and offer assistance.
So this is a good time to remind everyone about having an disaster plan. There are a number of resources on the web providing guidance on how to create a plan and to have an evacuation "go box" ready. It also is good to know what the SNF's plan is and under what circumstances do they evacuate residents or shelter in place. The stakes are too high not to ask about the plan.
I suspect that we will be posting more entries about the aftermath of Harvey for a while. Stay tuned.