Apria weathers historic flood

Friday, September 9, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. – The flood waters have receded, but it’s still not business as usual in rain-soaked Louisiana, say Apria employees.

“It’s getting progressively better, but the damage is done,” said Steven Hill, market vice president for the Southeast. “There’s widespread structural and water damage. People are displaced everywhere and it’s very challenging throughout the region.”

Three days of rain that began Aug. 11 dumped nearly two feet of rain, damaging approximately 146,000 homes and displacing tens of thousands of residents, according to news reports.

Quiana Cruz, branch manager for Apria’s Baton Rouge and Lafayette locations, activated the company’s emergency plan on Aug. 12 when flooding began in earnest, but she says there’s no way to fully prepare for a “100-year” weather event.

“We thought we were trying to prepare for a little water or a few power outages,” she said. “We did not anticipate the magnitude of eight to 10 feet of water in these neighborhoods.”

With approximately 1,000 oxygen patients, a primary focus was replacing concentrators that were damaged or lost, but flood roads made that nearly impossible for the first week, said Cruz.

“We had to literally meet them wherever we could, like on a high road,” she said. “I had one RT using a canoe to get to his truck to be able to get to patients.”

That’s when they can find the patients at all. With so many staying in shelters or temporary housing, or evacuated from the region, it has been tough for Apria to track them all down, says Cruz.

A big concern now that the water has receded: the impact of mold and structural problems on patients, especially those with respiratory problems, says Cruz.

“We have some staying in gutted out houses because they have nowhere else to go,” she said. “We tell them it’s in your best interest if you have anywhere else you can go because this environment is not good for you, but ultimately, they make their own decisions.”

As with past storms, like Hurricane Sandy in 2013, Apria expects to take a financial hit. It estimates it replaced 10 to 15 oxygen concentrators per day at the height of the crisis.

“First, we are going to do whatever it takes to get these folks some sense of normalcy,” said Hill. “We’ll worry about lost equipment payments later.”