Providers 'taking care of patients' in areas hit by tornadoes

Thursday, April 21, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - Beth Bowen has been in regular contact with HME providers affected by a series of tornadoes that hop-scotched through central North Carolina and parts of Virginia on April 16.

"Right now they are trying to do business as best they can," said Bowen, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers (NCAMES) and the Virginia Association of Durable Medical Equipment Companies (VADMEC). "They are working overtime taking care of patients."

North Carolina was hardest hit by the storm system, which swept through seven states. President Obama has declared 10 counties in North Carolina a disaster area.

In addition to caring for patients, providers were dealing with structural damage to their businesses—a couple have told Bowen they will have to relocate. Others are obtaining generators and getting their Internet service back.

"I don't know what to say to them other than, 'How can I help you?'" said Bowen. "'Can I move boxes or bring you lunch?' But, just offering the help and them knowing you are there, (helps)."

Provider Joey Tart's business was spared, but at one point he had about 50 respiratory patients without power.

"We've been working with them to make sure they have the back-up tanks that they need," said Tart, president of Family Medical Supply in Dunn.

Calls by HME News to other area providers went unreturned. In many cases, the phones appeared not to be working.

While tornadoes are not unheard of in North Carolina, they are not usually as widespread or as devastating. A particular challenge is the suddenness with which the storms can strike.

"We are more used to hurricanes," said Bowen. "They have tons of warning and you know what to do. Tornadoes are hit or miss. I drove over to see the damage. One building can be destroyed, the next one is untouched."