Winter weather whips HME providers into action

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NEW YORK - Twenty inches of snow can mean a coveted "snow day" for workers in many industries, but the HME industry is not one of them.

"We can't use that as an excuse for not servicing the patient," said Joe Candiano, operations supervisor for Farmingdale, N.Y.-based Homecare Concepts. "They don't want to hear that you can't get down their street. They want their oxygen."

Homecare Concepts services Long Island and all five boroughs of New York City, a region especially hard hit by a post-Christmas storm that left many side streets unplowed and public transportation at a standstill for several days last week.

"It's been slow going," said Candiano. "Overtime is up and the guys have been out there longer than they would like, but that's the business we are in."

Landauer Metropolitan doesn't let the snow get in its way. A couple of heavy snowstorms in the past couple of years convinced the provider to purchase a couple of four-wheel drive delivery vehicles.

"(Monday) nobody was delivering in New York but Landauer," said Lou Rocco, president and CEO, of the Mount Vernon, N.Y.-based provider, which covers the heavily populated tri-state metropolitan area of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. "Even the hospitals weren't discharging patients."

Landauer went into high gear before the storm hit, getting back up oxygen tanks and other essential supplies delivered, and making sure key personnel had updated lists of ventilator patients and other critical oxygen patients in case of power outages.

"We spend a lot of time and effort and money on our emergency preparedness and have quarterly drills," said Rocco. "We can't be shut down for a day here. We have to have alternate plans."

Regardless of the crunch last week, both Candiano and Rocco say they'd do it again.

"People that do this job have to have a certain level of empathy," said Candiano. "The assignment may be tough but you are going to make somebody's life easier. We are not in this just to collect a paycheck."