Hurricane Michael ripped through Florida’s panhandle five days ago, killing 18 people and displacing thousands. Even as many need health care in the storm’s wake, health providers are reeling from physical damage to buildings and displacement of staff.
As of Oct. 12, eight Florida hospitals had evacuated patients because of Hurricane Michael. Three of those hospitals, including one rehabilitation facility, were located in Panama City. That’s where more than 200 people crowded into the halls and classroom of the Deane Bozeman School in Panama City on Saturday night, many of them evacuated from two local hospitals that had been damaged. Many of the patients had special medical needs.
A mobile health unit was set up in the school’s parking lot, and inside was Dr. Eileen Ramsaran, CEO of North Miami Beach Medical Center. She’d driven the mobile unit more than eight hours across the state to provide care to people who needed it.
Ramsaran and other free clinic doctors and dentists use the 32-foot long Mercy Mobile Clinic to do medical outreach in communities with limited access to transportation around North Miami. Direct Relief supported the purchase of the unit with funds from its Hurricane Community Health Fund, which was established last year after Hurricane Irma.
Those funds were distributed so that communities would be able to treat patients outside of clinic walls if needed during the next storm, and Ramsaran and her mobile clinic were doing just that.
Direct Relief also delivered emergency medical supplies for use in the shelter, including an emergency medical backpack with wound care supplies and other first aid items.
Direct Relief staff have been on the ground throughout the state, working through the weekend to assess health needs and deliver medical aid. Many of the state’s health centers and free clinics in the Panhandle are without power, have sustained serious damage, and many of the staff who work at these facilities have also been displaced.
Direct Relief will be issuing emergency grants immediately to these facilities so they can cover these costs and keep serving patients in need.