Supporting Patients Impacted by Winter’s Arctic Blasts and California’s Wildfires

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As much of the east coast felt the wrath of an arctic blast that froze pipes in the south and a blizzard that flooded streets and made roads impassable in the north, local Fresenius Kidney Care and Disaster Response teams turned again to uniting around their highest priority – continuity of care for dialysis patients and the safety of employees.

In Donaldsonville, Louisiana, three days of hard freezes in early January led to the full shutdown of water in town which not only impacted patients at home, but closed the local dialysis clinic. Fresh running water is critical to ensuring dialysis patients receive their life sustaining treatments.

“This is why we have emergency plans in place at all times,” said Terry Bellon, director of operations for the region. “Our team worked quickly to reschedule appointments and find the nearest available clinic that could take our patients.”

Studies have linked missed treatments to an increase in complications for patients with end stage renal disease. Patients are more likely to end up in the hospital or seriously ill if they go too long without their treatment so every minute on dialysis counts.

“The work must go on regardless of what mother nature throws our way,” said Bellon. “Our patients rely on us to find solutions when things get challenging because their lives depend on it.”

As the storm in the northeast bore down dumping up to two feet of snow, clinics extended their hours late into the evening just before the storm hit, and then reopened a couple days later on a Sunday to accommodate the change in shifts and ensure all treatments were delivered.

When massive wildfires hit Southern California in December, clinic teams in the impacted areas called every single patient – more than 500 – to ensure they were safe and that they could make their treatments. For any patient who could not be located, the team called the local police to check on them.

“Our focus was accounting for every single patient, and we accomplished that,” said Ana Silveira, group vice president of operations for the west region.

In all, six patients were evacuated from their homes threatened by the wildfires, with the clinic teams assisting in getting them placed with friends, relatives or a local shelter.

Patients receive great care only when nurses and other critical caregivers are kept safe as well. The wildfires forced 20 employees from their homes so Fresenius Medical Care provided temporary housing until they could return. This is part of a comprehensive approach to disasters which provides many supports for patients and employees.

“Everyone came together to help each other,” Silveira said. “Our local leaders have been visiting the impacted clinics to keep them informed. Our clinical teams are so focused on delivering care in the clinics that they may not be aware of what’s happening outside, so it helps to have leaders keeping them up to date.”

In recent weeks, six separate wildfires have destroyed nearly 270,000 acres in Southern California and the impact goes beyond those areas scorched by flames.

“We had a colleague who returned to their home and their backyard was burned, their house was covered in ash and everything in the house smells like smoke,” Silveira said. “The cleanup will go on for months.”

Dedicated support teams ensure that despite all the challenges brought by unforeseen events, patients and employees get the help needed to successfully weather the storm.