Hurricane Sandy: Restoring Pharmacy Access in NYC


Hurricane Sandy

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Direct Relief is paying extra-close attention to a key factor in disaster response—access to pharmacy services, both nonprofit and commercial.

For people needing to access basic health and medical services under conditions such as the infrastructural shocks now being felt in New York City, supply chains, transport, and service availability are paramount concerns.

Lower Manhattan—among many other frontline areas of the East Coast—was left reeling from widespread power outages, flood damage and the shuttering of the New York City subway system. While ConEd, the New York power utility, indicated that electricity to the bottom third of the island could take up to four days to restore, the director of the Metro Transit Authority warned that the subway system could take much longer to bring back online.

What can be known about where primary health service interruptions may have most seriously affected the population? How may partner communications have been affected by power outages and service closures? While Direct Relief is conducting rapid needs assessment now, not all health center partners have responded.

Working with data from colleagues at RxResponse, who publish an invaluable online tool on pharmacy status aggregated from over 18,000 pharmacy locations nationwide, Direct Relief has learned that roughly two-thirds of the 31 commercial pharmacies in Manhattan below 53rd Street were closed as of Tuesday evening.

Anecdotal evidence, alongside ConEd’s own power outage map, indicates that grid failures are responsible for the majority of service closures. Analyzing a heat map of Direct Relief clinical partner locations with Palantir‘s technology, it is possible to estimate the relative likelihood that interruptions of partner communications and services within half a kilometer may be highly correlated with factors causing outages in the commercial pharmacy network.

Clinics on the west side of Manhattan below 34th Street to the Battery appear to be at the most risk given proximate pharmacy closure data. Efforts to reach our clinical partners and re-open supply chains, working with stakeholders from RxResponse and the New York Primary Care Association, are now targeted and will be ongoing throughout this week’s post-storm power outages. Updates will be posted on the website soon.

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