Katrina’s Dangerous Lesson Still Unlearned: Column

by Bill Numbers, Senior Vice President and Incident Commander, FMCNA

Licensure regulations prevent nurses from responding to natural disasters in other states. But there is a solution.

Soon afteFeatured in USA Todayr Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, many things we take for granted were in dangerously short supply — housing, food, water, medical supplies. It also became hard to find something else essential to coping with such a natural disaster: enough nurses.

Ten years later, the nurses so desperately needed during such emergencies can still remain in short supply.

The storm left many hospitals and medical clinics flooded, without power and otherwise in shambles. Thousands of vulnerable patients and refugees from the storm were left with nowhere to go. The need for care was enormous.

As the country’s largest provider of vital dialysis services, Fresenius Medical Care 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. Over many years, we built a disaster response program that could react to such challenging circumstances and deliver critical healthcare.

As we conduct those efforts, we often need more nurses. Addressing that need, however, is not entirely in our control.

Nurses are licensed by each individual state, but they are not like driver’s licenses. Those certified in one state cannot necessarily practice nursing in another state, which is a problem in a disaster.

Katrina impacted almost 100 dialysis clinics in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, some of which had to close for several days, others permanently. More than 7,000 displaced patients packed into our open clinics, which were not immediately staffed to handle all of them.  More than 7,000 displaced patients packed into our open clinics…

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