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Supporting Recovery in Florida and the U.S. Gulf Coast
The Category Four storm made landfall in Western Florida, with older adults and medically fragile people at particular risk.
Direct Relief prepositioned a dozen Hurricane Prep Packs with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in Florida and responded to additional requests for emergency medicines, backup power systems, and more.
The organization has a long history of responding to hurricanes in the state, including Hurricane Michael in 2018.
After battering western Cuba, Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwestern Florida on September 28, 2022. Classified as a Category Four storm, the powerful hurricane was the strongest to make landfall in the state since Hurricane Michael in 2018. It was also the deadliest in more than 80 years, killing at least 150 across the state. After moving inland, Ian weakened to a tropical storm before moving back offshore into the Atlantic where it re-strengthened to become a hurricane once again before making its final landfall in South Carolina on September 30. Five additional deaths occurred in North Carolina and Virginia.
In the months since the storm, many free and charitable medical clinics and health centers damaged by high winds, storm surge, and flooding have had to clean and repair their facilities while simultaneously meeting increased needs from patients, many of whom had also experienced losses.
In response to Hurricane Ian, Direct Relief delivered a total of 454 emergency shipments to 109 healthcare facilities and organizations caring for people affected by the hurricane in Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia.
The shipments contained more than 2.2 million defined daily doses (DDDs) of medications including antibiotics, analgesics, anti-diabetes drugs, respiratory drugs, cardiovascular agents, mental health medicines, and nutritional supplements.
In addition, medical devices such as pulse oximeters and glucometers, and consumables such as needles and syringes, first aid products, and personal care items were provided.
Hurricane Ian Preparedness
Even before the storm made landfall, Direct Relief was in communication with health facilities predicted to be in the storm’s path. Twelve Hurricane Preparedness Packs stocked with medical essentials commonly requested by medical providers after severe storms had already been staged across the state through Direct Relief’s Hurricane Preparedness Program.
Developed with experts from frontline clinics and health centers following Hurricane Katrina and refined on an annual basis, Direct Relief’s Hurricane Preparedness Packs include medications to treat trauma and other acute conditions as well as to manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension. Also included are first aid and general medical supplies, basic diagnostic equipment, and personal protective gear. Four additional packs were shipped from Direct Relief’s California warehouse to meet growing medical needs as soon as the storm made landfall in Florida.
Hurricane Ian Needs and Response
A wide range of primary and secondary care medical goods were included in preparedness pack and emergency shipments in response to Hurricane Ian, including:
• Cold chain medications such as insulin and vaccines (tetanus, hepatitis A, influenza), especially to clinics and centers reporting that hurricane-related power outages and generator failure had led to significant pharmaceutical losses.
• Medications and supplies most appropriate for outreach services for healthcare facilities deploying mobile units to provide care while clinic and health center damages were assessed and repairs were in progress.
• Field medic packs and tents to medical clinics and health centers that set up treatment areas outside their physical buildings or in heavy-hit areas.
• Personal care packs containing soap, toothbrushes, and other hygiene-related products for people displaced by the storm were shipped to responding facilities and organizations.
Throughout the response, Direct Relief coordinated its efforts with the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC), the Florida Association of Community Health Centers (FACHC), and state health associations in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia which served as important channels of information, providing ongoing updates on health facility status and needs.
Because power remained intermittent or out completely after the storm, Direct Relief also shipped a variety of power solutions, including solar generators, to several sites across Florida.
Disasters like hurricanes disproportionately impact vulnerable people, including children, older adults, people without access to transportation, people with disabilities, and those for whom English is a second language.
People with chronic conditions are also at risk if they lose access to medications needed to manage their health. Conditions like asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure can prompt emergency room visits during times of high volume for acute injuries.
Power outages caused by storms can also be life-threatening for people dependent on electricity-powered medical devices, such as ventilators. Health facilities are also dependent on power to refrigerate vaccines, insulin and other temperature-sensitive therapies, power electronic health records, and more. Direct Relief was able to ship resilient power units to multiple health facilities, among them MCR Health in Bradenton, which manages five campuses that see more than 140,000 patients annually. Three Sunkit solar generators were shipped to the organization to support power needs.
Direct Relief also supported health facilities with emergency operating grants, which focused on increased demand for services to be effectively managed, facility repairs and medical equipment replacement, and assistance with basic living needs for low-income cancer patients.
Many health centers and free clinics continue to use mobile units to provide care while their facilities undergo repairs, and have requested basic medical supplies for health services in the time since Ian’s landfall. Replacement of cold chain medications that were lost when power was out, resilient power options, both permanent and temporary, and the need for mental health care, including medication supplies, continue to be top priorities.
As recovery continues, Direct Relief is focused on targeted financial support to backfill losses among nonprofit health providers so they can meet the increased demand for services. Direct Relief will continue to support communities affected by Hurricane Ian through its emergency response and ongoing medication support efforts.