Provider reports 'complete chaos' in Alabama

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

DORA, Ala. - A pair of tornadoes destroyed the tiny town of Cordova, Ala., on April 27, taking Ken Glover's pharmacy right along with it.

"It's like a war zone," said Glover, owner of Ken Glover Drug, which has a location in Cordova and its corporate headquarters about eight miles away in Dora. "We're still in survival mode and running on adrenaline."

Alabama was hard hit by a record-breaking series of tornadoes last month that are estimated to have killed 328 people in seven states, according to news reports.

In Cordova, the first tornado passed through at about 5 a.m. and the second, which destroyed the pharmacy, about 12 hours later. In between, Ken Glover was able to salvage patient records, computers and medications, and bring them to his Dora location, which, along with two locations in Jasper, escaped damage. The entire county, however, was left without power, phone or Internet service. 

"We were the only community pharmacy in the county that was open and we were working off a generator," said Jennifer Weathers, DMEPOS coordinator. "We rolled the phones from all of the stores to my cell phone."

Since then, the provider has been working to fill prescriptions and ensure that patients have back-up oxygen cylinders and other durable medical equipment. The widespread power outages have led to a shortage in cylinders.

"We're telling patients without power to go to a shelter, even if they don't want to," said Weathers.

With regular phone service extremely limited, Weathers is relying on texting and Facebook to stay in touch.

Patients from as far as 50 miles away are seeking help, said Glover. The provider is delivering medications two or three times a day to various checkpoints staffed with medical volunteers and directing patients to pick up prescriptions there. In cases where the patients can't travel, the provider has been delivering to them, often with an assigned security escort through checkpoints in hard-hit areas.

"People that were devastated, when their house went away, their medicine did too," said Glover, who says he is running on about three hours of sleep a night.

By all accounts, Glover's disaster plan, which calls for getting any one of its four locations back up and running in 72 hours, worked. But, in the face of "complete chaos," the provider is making adjustments as he goes.

"There's not a plan out there that could accommodate this," he said.