Prolonged power outages and sustained damage from Hurricane Gustav are taxing health centers in Louisiana, who have played a key role in caring for evacuees, special needs, and low-income patients. Winds up to 110 miles per hour downed power lines, caused flooding, and damaged structures, including health clinics and hospitals in the Category 2 hurricane’s path.
The $150,000 Direct Relief pledged earlier this week to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) will be used first to help health centers buy the essential medicines they need to treat the influx of patients, and second, to help clinics rebuild and recover. With at least one health center completely flooded, funds for rebuilding are critically needed.
Gwen Laury, managing the disaster response efforts for the Louisiana Primary Care Association, is in Baton Rouge, where emergency shelters are “filled to capacity,” caring for a large influx of special needs patients evacuated from regional hospitals without power. Reports indicate that in some parts of the state, it may take two weeks for power to be restored.
The LPCA runs 22 health centers with 44 clinical sites in Louisiana. Tomorrow, Direct Relief is sending medical aid shipments, including first aid materials, antibiotics, medicines for chronic conditions, and personal care products to help treat evacuees. Health centers are operating around the clock, which requires additional funding for staff—a challenge for cash-strapped centers treating large populations of uninsured patients.
RKM Primary Care in Clinton, Louisiana, is the only clinic open in Feliciana Parish, reports Leslie Matte, RKM’s director. “We are also providing 24-hour care due to power outages at area hospitals,” Matte reported Tuesday. “Lane Regional Medical Center was evacuated today due to generator problems; Oschner Medical Center was evacuated due to damage. West Feliciana Hospital and Field Memorial Hospital in Centreville, Mississippi are running on minimum generator power.”
“RKM is housing Acadian Ambulance Service and we are triaging and stabilizing all patients brought in until they can be transported to a surrounding hospital when available,” Matte said. “East Feliciana Parish is also evacuating families due to flooding. We are working hard on minimum supplies and equipment to help whoever walks through the door.”
Direct Relief domestic programs staff remains in constant contact with partners in Louisiana and Mississippi to identify needs as they emerge.