Levees break, providers hold

Thursday, July 31, 2008

DES MOINES, Iowa--Half a mile from the roiling Mississippi River, staff at Heritage Medical in Burlington, Iowa, began calling patients in flood-prone areas.

“We asked about their plans, to make them start to think if they hadn’t already,” said Lelia Wilkerson, manager. “We asked them, ‘Do you know where you are going and what can we do to assist you and get you set up?’”

Providers throughout the flood-drenched Midwest spent much of June activating disaster plans, as rivers throughout the region reached record-breaking levels, thanks to spring snowmelts and heavy rains.

Flooding is an annual occurrence, but this year is something else, said Wilkerson.

“You don’t usually have houses and livestock washed away,” she said.

Keokuk Area Medical Equipment in Keokuk, Iowa, didn’t have to close their location on lock 19, but with patients on both sides of the Mississippi River, logistics provided a challenge, said manager Debbie Donahue.

“We have a fully stocked van parked in my driveway on the Illinois side,” she said. “The bridge has managed to stay open, except for between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m, but cars can only travel one lane at a time. I waited on the bridge three hours the other night to get drugs across.”

Michelle Jensen, manager of CarePro Home Medical in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had to bring in a generator to fill tanks, as well as deal with patients who refused to leave their homes.

“They wanted us to deliver their tanks through water,” she said. “We were running extra tanks to people without power and with roads closed it took up to an hour-and-a-half to get to patients.”