Providers play 'vital' ER role

Friday, July 6, 2012

WASHINGTON – Home medical equipment providers have been working hard to ensure patients have what they need amid extreme weather events around the country.

Among the top concerns: power outages, especially for oxygen and ventilator patients.

Provider Joel McGrain told AAHomecare that massive outages caused by a storm that hit the Mid-Atlantic led to dozens of calls.

“Beginning about 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 30, we started receiving calls from patients without power," said McGrain, distribution operations manager for Havre de Grace, Maryland-based Home MediService. "We received a total of 33 calls on Saturday and Sunday and responded to 21 to deliver additional back-up oxygen.”

McGrain said he and his team conduct extensive emergency training and were ready with a plan when the storm struck.

Flooding in Florida led provider TJ McEnany to loan nearly all of the wheelchairs at Middleburg, Fla.-based Wheelchairs Plus to patients at no charge.

"Several weeks after the most recent flooding rains, we are seeing rivers just now cresting at record breaking levels," McEnany told AAHomecare. "As a result we have seen a need for mobility and other medical equipment due to existing equipment being literally washed away, in most cases, unfortunately, along with the patient’s homes."

Cleveland-based Medical Service Co. ferried more than 500 oxygen tanks to its branch office Pioneer Home Medical in Marietta, Ohio, to support oxygen patients without electricity in the area.

“Charles Mitchell, medical equipment technician from Charleston, went door-to-door and contacted patients personally through the weekend,” the company stated in a release.

Providers don't receive any extra compensation from Medicare for their emergency efforts, pointed out AAHomecare President Tyler Wilson.

"This illustrates the vital role of these homecare providers in our healthcare system," he stated. "Whether because of the devastation caused by the heat wave, power outages, wildfires, or floods, our members continually demonstrate why the nation needs a strong, robust infrastructure for providing medical equipment to seniors in their homes."