Southwest providers try to stay cool

Friday, June 24, 2016

PHOENIX – Summer arrived last week in full force, with scorching temperatures across parts of the Southwest, but HME providers and their patients were taking it in stride.

“This isn’t a heat wave for us,” said Ron Evans, owner of Valley Healthcare Group, which has several locations in Arizona, including Phoenix, which hit 117 degrees on June 19. “It’s not uncommon to have (such high temperatures) in June, July and August, but it spiked higher than normal.”

Such extreme heat can exacerbate breathing problems for respiratory patients, said Evans.

“We encourage them to stay hydrated, to stay indoors, and to use their oxygen,” he said. “We do have some patients we see on a regular basis that the drivers are checking on when we deliver supplies.”

Provider Chris Rice says one of his biggest concerns with such high temperatures is power outages.

“(The power company) announced that they may have some rolling blackouts,” said Rice, CEO of Diamond Respiratory in Riverside Calif., which saw a temperature of 113 on June 20. “That’s a challenge for any patients on vents and even some oxygen patients.”

If a power blackout lasts only an hour or so, patients can use battery power for their devices, but any longer than that and it poses potential problems. Rice says he has no easy way to track these blackouts.

“The bigger challenge is when they decide to turn off power for specific blocks and whether we have any patients in those specific areas,” he said. “We just have to pray the patient lets us know so we can make some type of arrangement.”

Providers also make sure to take care of their employees.

“We give them lots of water and make sure they cool down,” said John Eberhart, president of Eberhart Home Health in Farmington, N.M., which hit 106 last week. “Anything that can be put off, put it off.”

One thing he can’t help his employees avoid? Hot tempers from the soaring temps.

“There’s a lot of people just ticked off (from the heat),” he said.