10 Years after Hurricane Katrina: The Untold Story of Dialysis Patients

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Disaster Preparedness and Response Saved Thousands of Gulf Coast Lives

The Untold Story of Dialysis PatientsOn August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the Gulf Coast and left a path of destruction in its wake. While authorities had been tracking the storm long before it hit, few predicted its intensity or the devastation it would cause. Much of the medical community, like so many others, was caught unprepared. As hospital and local clinics lost power or flooded, tens of thousands of patients needed care and did not have anywhere to receive it.

For dialysis patients, this could have been a matter of life or death.

As the country’s largest provider of vital dialysis services, Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA) built a disaster response program over many years equipped to react effectively to such challenging circumstances and deliver critical healthcare. That experience paid off during Katrina.

Dialysis clinics all along the Gulf Coast were forced to close, but their patients needed to receive treatments quickly in order to survive. More than 100 Fresenius dialysis clinics in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were impacted – with 40 forced to close for 2-3 days and several for longer.

Before the storm

The Untold Story of Dialysis PatientsBefore the storm made landfall, FMCNA helped ensure patients received their dialysis treatments, gave patients information packets, and set up an Emergency Hotline. We then mobilized a fleet of trucks to transport patients and supplies, constructed temporary housing for our employees, distributed generators, gasoline and clean water to those who needed them, and more.

As a result, we were able to provide life-saving treatments to more than 7,000 displaced patients in our clinics and other temporary facilities, including more than 1,000 who were not Fresenius patients.

Responding to such a disaster requires much more than just providing medical care. For example:

  • The company arranged a caravan, including 20 mobile homes, to bring employees, food, clothing and medical equipment and supplies to the region to help in the storm’s aftermath.
  • Outside Gulfport, Miss. than 1,000 local FMCNA staff and national volunteers helped establish a makeshift “Fresenius Village” of the mobile homes, RVs, and tents to house displaced patients and employees and serve as temporary treatment centers for those in need.
  • Our medical staff and nurses went above and beyond, working around the clock to get patients the care they needed, many forgoing their own safety and comfort in order to stay and help.
  • The “Fresenius Village” was open for a year and housed 200 nurses and their families whose homes were destroyed.

Applying the Lessons Learned

The Untold Story of Dialysis PatientsTaking our experience from Katrina, Fresenius Medical Care committed to improving the industry’s future emergency response, including:

  • Investing in standby resources that can be deployed anywhere in the country;
  • Creating a Regional Disaster Preparedness Manual that provides templates and a checklist for each region; and
  • Supporting nurse compact legislation that allows nurses to work in multiple states.

Moreover, the renal industry formed the Kidney Community Emergency Response Coalition (KCER), a team that links together government agencies and dialysis providers during a disaster to provide better care.

A Model that Works

A Model that WorksKatrina is just one example of the work FMCNA does during disaster situations to help ensure patients receive essential treatment. FMCNA’s disaster response program has a long track record helping to meet the needs of our staff and both Fresenius Medical Care and non-FMCNA patients during many natural disasters around the country. The company has treated thousands of dialysis patients displaced or stranded by floods, snowstorms, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as those affected by the H1N1 pandemic.

FMCNA’s disaster response team – our “Incident Command Team” – is constantly monitoring for potential events and ready to be activated. We are dedicated to helping patients and their families plan ahead when possible and providing emergency dialysis services and other relief to our displaced staff and patients during and in the wake of a disaster.

FMCNA has worked with FEMA, as well as the American Red Cross during hurricanes Rita, Ike and Sandy, and have maintained those relationships to meet future need.

The company’s approach has garnered recognition from FEMA and the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM).

For more information about our disaster response program, click here.

Click here for a news release about our efforts during Hurricane Katrina.