Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Sept. 28 as a Category 4 storm, causing widespread damage in southwest Florida, and inundating low-lying coastal communities.
More than 120 people were killed, thousands displaced, and homes and infrastructure damaged amounting to an estimated $67 billion in losses. In the month since the storm, many health facilities across the state, including free and charitable clinics and health centers, are working to repair facilities that lost power and were damaged by high winds and water while meeting increased needs from patients that may have experienced losses themselves.
Direct Relief’s Response
Even before the storm made landfall, Direct Relief was in communication with health facilities, shipping out medical aid the week prior as health staff prepared to become first responders in their communities if needed.
Since Sept. 26, more than 247 emergency shipments were sent to Florida, valued at $2.8 million to 80 recipients, and requests for medical aid have departed Direct Relief’s warehouse for health facilities recovering from the storm at a rapid pace.
Before the storm, 12 hurricane preparedness modules, stocked with medical essentials commonly requested by medical providers after hurricanes, had been staged across the state. After the storm made landfall, four more were shipped from Direct Relief’s warehouse to meet growing medical needs.
Throughout the response, Direct Relief has coordinated with the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC) and Florida Association of Community Health Centers (FACHC) and has been providing regular updates on clinic and health center status and needs.
What was requested after the storm?
Power loss and generator failure led to significant medication losses, and primary care providers worked to help patients maintain treatment for chronic health conditions.
Included in Direct Relief shipments were cold-chain medications, including replacement insulin and tetanus vaccines due to loss of power, chronic disease medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and mental health. Field medic packs and tents were also shipped to healthcare providers administering care outside of clinic walls.
Many organizations also requested personal care packs, which contain items like soap, shampoo and other hygiene items for people displaced by the storm.
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. Among them are 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.
Even health facilities far away from the damage zone leaned in to assist, including Borinquen Health Care Center, Inc. in Miami, Florida, which was actively responding due to a high number of evacuees coming to Miami. Pancare based in Panama City, Florida, sent out a mobile medical unit and an operations RV to assist. Underground Free Clinic in Tampa, Florida, also assisted and has been connecting patients and the community with emergency services needed.
Post-Ian, many clinics lost access to power and water, and wind and water damage was widespread to facilities.
Clinics reported staffing was a challenge since some staff lost homes and/or sustained major damage. Direct Relief is focused on cash grants for clinic repair and replacing equipment that was lost or destroyed.
Many health centers and free clinics are using mobile units to provide care while their facilities undergo repairs, and have requested basic medical supplies for health services. 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, are also top priorities.
During this next phase of recovery, Direct Relief will be focused on targeted financial support to backfill losses among nonprofit health providers so they can meet the increased demand for services.
This post was originally published on Direct Relief.