Hurricane Sandy: Providers persevere, but at what cost?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NEW YORK – As things slowly return to some type of normal here, HME providers are calculating the financial damages wrought by Hurricane Sandy.

When the powerful storm struck the heavily populated New York-New Jersey coast on Oct. 29, one of the biggest impacts on providers were the power outages that led to gas shortages. That meant providers like Apria Healthcare trucked in fuel from Texas at its own expense.

“(The storm caused) hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and lost revenue,” said Mark Centolella, vice president of operations for Apria’s Northeast Division.

[See also: Providers persevere through floods, outages]

Landauer Metropolitan Inc. (LMI) also paid to bring in a gas tanker truck from upstate New York. Not even considering that cost, LMI estimates that in equipment and supplies alone—the provider also donated supplies and equipment to relief organizations—that it lost about $400,000. That's on top of lost business.

"I can't tell you yet the revenue loss but it's going to be significant," said CEO Lou Rocco. "In the first two weeks of November, there's been a decrease in business. It just hasn't recovered."

The gas shortage also meant increased pressure on providers like Continued Care of Long Island to get patients out of hospital emergency rooms, which were needed for their sickest patients.

"The first five to seven days after the storm, none of our deliveries were profitable," said Dan DeSimone, CEO, who estimates he incurred about $32,000 in product and delivery costs, and sustained about $217,000 in lost business. "All we were doing was getting patients home."

While providers are accustomed to digging into their own pockets to ensure patients are taken care of during a crisis, they wish there was a broader understanding of what they do.

"We were delivering oxygen cylinders to one of our patients, who said to the driver, 'You guys must be making a killing on this,'" said David Chase, CEO of Hampton Home Care, who says his storm related expenses are already more than $100,000. "They don’t understand that we don't get reimbursed for delivery in a disaster."