Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast in late August. Widespread flooding in the Houston area wiped out thousands of homes and businesses, including countless medical facilities and practices. Although the short-term health concerns may be apparent, longer-term effects associated with stress and environmental issues can be harder to spot.
Areas in Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey have entered full recovery phase as the storm has moved out of the state. The state has put a variety of resources in place, but recovery and public health initiatives will be coordinated mostly by local officials and facilities in the affected areas.
TMA takes you inside the recovery effort in Aransas Pass, where physicians and staff are doing everything they can to restore hope and health care to their community.
In September of 2017, a survey was emailed to 13,696 Texas physicians, both members and nonmembers, from counties listed by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) as affected by Hurricane Harvey. After four days, responses were received from 524 physicians with practices from the 39 counties designated by FEMA as official disaster areas. Highlights from the analysis include as a result of Hurricane Harvey, 65 percent of physicians temporarily closed their practice and 35 percent reduced their hours or services.
See the Results Here
See a video of floodwaters rising into NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care and the damage caused by the storm.
It is difficult to watch as our beloved state suffers from the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey. Even more difficult is the number of Texans displaced as they evacuate to safe places. This means many Texans are seeking medical care outside of their usual region or network of physicians. It helps to know that health information exchanges (HIE) are available to assist physicians by providing access to a patient’s information at the point of care.
Volunteer to help (Link to the Texas Disaster Volunteer Registry)
The Texas Disaster Volunteer Registry is run by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas physicians can sign up with the registry as a volunteer to provide medical help to Texas communities during or after a disaster.
Every healthcare office should maintain written policies for addressing any kind of emergency (e.g., utility disruption or a manmade disaster) and particularly inclement weather and hurricanes. Physicians should also be aware of emergency management plans in the county or community. Click here for a list of local Texas emergency preparedness websites provided by Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
Here are a few important tips for you and your staff when dealing with an emergency or disaster:
Physicians can play a significant role in helping patients prepare and respond to disaster situations. Patients, especially those with fragile health, should be counseled on the importance of having a disaster plan in place for themselves and their families.
In addition, physicians can help their patients prepare by:
Financial assistance available for physical damage to medical practices in federally declared disaster areas.
Help reopen physician practices damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
If your application for disaster assistance following Hurricane Harvey was denied or you feel the award amount is insufficient, you have the right to an appeal. The determination letter is intended to explain which category of assistance was processed, the decision made including amount, what action can be taken, and if any additional information should be provided.
Get the Fact Sheet: FEMA Determination Letters: How to File an Appeal
ICD-10-CM Coding Advice for Healthcare Encounters in Hurricane Aftermath- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties During a Declared Emergency
Summary of Statutory Provisions Affecting the Liability of Providers in a Public Health Emergency (Department of State Health Services)
You may be eligible for a Medicare Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) EHR Hardship Exception. The deadline is set for March 31, 2018. Find out about the hardship exception application requirements here.
Got disaster preparedness questions? Call the Knowledge Center.
Treating Patients at Houston's Largest Emergency Shelter, as Hurricane Harvey Rages-The New Yorker