Hurricane Florence

Responding to Public Health Concerns in Hurricane Florence’s Aftermath

CommWell Health staff inventory medicines from Direct Relief as they work to treat patients in Harrells, North Carolina, on Sept. 19, 2018. (Photo by Mark Semegen for Direct Relief)
CommWell Health staff inventory medicines from Direct Relief as they work to treat patients in Harrells, North Carolina, on Sept. 19, 2018. (Photo by Mark Semegen for Direct Relief)

Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence are beginning to recede in North Carolina, and CommWell Health staff at a mobile clinic in Harrells, North Carolina, are bracing for an influx of patients.

Those expected to pass through the mobile clinic’s doors may have been unable to get care since the storm’s waters rose last week, and may have had to leave their homes at the last-minute.

“When you have 15 minutes to get out of your house, you leave everything,” said Keven Zibelin, a family nurse practitioner with CommWell Health. “These patients don’t have their medicines, they don’t have their insurance cards… We’re successful today to have medicines for them.”

CommWell Health received emergency medicines Wednesday from Direct Relief to stock its mobile unit, which will provide care to the community while many services are still closed.

“When they were evacuated, they couldn’t take anything,” Zibelin said. “We’re seeing high blood sugar, if their insulin was in the refrigerator when they left.”

Insulin to manage diabetes is often a critical need in emergencies, and on Wednesday, Direct Relief shipped insulin to three different health facilities in communities affected by Hurricane Florence.

Those clinical facilities included NC MedAssist in Charlotte, Advance Community Health in Raleigh, and HealthReach Community Clinic in Mooresville. Direct Relief also received requests for insulin from Scotland Health Center in Laurinburg and Health Quest of Union County in Monroe that will be fulfilled in the coming days.

Direct Relief is also shipping meters, strips, and lancets, as well as other diabetes management supplies like sharps containers, needles, syringes, glucagon and glucagen and glucose shots.

Insulin is packed at Direct Relief's headquarters before being shipped to health centers impacted by Hurricane Florence. Health Reach Center in Mooresville and NC MedAssist, in Charlotte, both of which provide prescriptions free-of-charge to thousands of North Carolina residents each year, will receive insulin as part of the shipment that left the warehouse on Sept. 19, 2018. The insulin was donated by Novo Nordisk. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)
Insulin is packed at Direct Relief’s headquarters before being shipped to health centers impacted by Hurricane Florence. Health Reach Center in Mooresville and NC MedAssist, in Charlotte, both of which provide prescriptions free-of-charge to thousands of North Carolina residents each year, will receive insulin as part of the shipment that left the warehouse on Sept. 19, 2018. The insulin was donated by Novo Nordisk. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

When mass evacuations occur, chronic conditions can escalate, forcing a person to seek emergency care. Without a regular supply of management medications like insulin, dire consequences can occur.

In response to these needs, Direct Relief developed a Hurricane Preparedness Pack, many of which are stationed each year in hurricane-prone communities. These kits were developed based on feedback from healthcare professionals responding in past disasters and have been refined over time, based on what first responders are most likely to need during an emergency. Each contains medicines to manage diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma.

Direct Relief also ships requested amounts of insulin, which must be stored at a constant cold temperature. From the organization’s 2,800-square-foot cold storage room, staff packed insulin for shipment Wednesday, medication that was donated by Novo Nordisk and designated for patients in North Carolina.

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