Weathered providers tackle flood, blizzard

Thursday, April 30, 2009

FARGO, N.D.--HME providers in this area aren’t strangers to bad weather, but in late March, they battled flooding rains one week and a blizzard the next.

As a result, providers like Fargo-based MeritCare/HealthCare Accessories were in full emergency response mode. They contacted hundreds of oxygen patients to make sure they had enough contents to get through three or four days without deliveries. They stocked delivery trucks with equipment, in case they had to abandon their Fargo branches.

“We also had our delivery techs split up on each side of the river, so they could better reach patients,” said Lori Morin, an operations manager for MeritCare/HealthCare Accessories. “They had a tough enough time getting around, as it was. They were stopped by police; they had to show them their IDs and tell them where they were going.”

By April 1, however, the Red River had receded below most sandbag levees and the snow had stopped falling.

The weather wreaked havoc on more than just providers. Based in Fargo, Noridian Administrative Services, the Jurisdiction D DME MAC, had to move 67 employees to Jamestown and Grand Forks, N.D., to continue limited business operations.

“We anticipate long queue times to reach a customer service representative,” Noridian stated in a bulletin on March 31. “We ask that suppliers call only with urgent inquiries this week.”

That’s no big deal, at least for providers like MeritCare/HealthCare Accessories.

“As you can imagine, we’re a little behind on our billing and other things,” Morin said. “We’ve had other priorities.”