Joining the Healthcare Ready team during Hurricane season is a really unique experience; the speed with which the Healthcare Ready team handles disaster relief and patient needs is an impressive sight to be seen. Since beginning my internship at Healthcare ready just last week, I have been a part of countless industry conference calls, a meeting dedicated to supply chain issues in disasters, and have had first hand experience getting an uninsured patient resources in order to access their medication. This past week has opened my eyes to the critical public health problems that rise out of natural disasters and all of the different types of organizations that have to work together to manage a successful disaster relief mission. It has been a whirlwind couple of days and with natural disasters like the hurricanes that we have recently experienced, there is really no time to waste.
As of the past few days we have been convening in our makeshift emergency operations center – a conference center with whiteboard walls covered in to do lists and the latest hurricane news updates playing in the background. We spend the day coordinating with our partners in the public and private sector and responding to requests for information and assistance from those impacted by Hurricane Maria as well as those who want to help.
In a disaster of this magnitude it is critical to coordinate with the other people in the sector working for the common goal, we share what our resources are and any roadblocks that we face. This information sharing fosters collaboration and ensures that the most current information is being disseminated and that we aren’t letting anything or anyone slip through the cracks.
A part of the whole operation that I was most surprised to learn about was how much individual contact the Healthcare Ready team is able to make with those in disaster situations. People reach out for help getting access to their prescriptions via phone calls, tweets and even Facebook private messages. It is really encouraging to see how possible it is to help people all around the world. As a student of public health, I often feel like the problems that we face are larger than life. It was inspiring for me to see the direct impact that we could have for patients all the way in Puerto Rico from our office in Washington, D.C.
Another way that Healthcare Ready is able to reach such a wide group of people is through Rx Open, an embedded map on our website that displays the locations of pharmacies in disaster areas and provides their operating status. This is critical because during a natural disaster the operating status of pharmacies can act as a barrier to access to medical supplies and essential prescriptions. We are working to ensure that Rx Open up to date- it is currently updated with pharmacy status for Puerto Rico, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana. We are also tracking and updating pharmacy status manually for the US Virgin Islands.
The Healthcare Ready Emergency Operations Center can be chaotic during hurricane season but there is a sense of calm in knowing that our partners are as dedicated as we are to the recovery efforts and that together we will everything in our power to ensure that patients have access to the care and medicines that they need.