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 Amid Hurricane Harvey, Texas Care Providers Lead Residents to Safety

To say that the damage left by Hurricane Harvey is disastrous would be an understatement. The category four hurricane that swept through southeast Texas and southern Louisiana beginning on Aug. 25 dumped trillions of gallons of water and forced thousands of residents to be evacuated from over 95 nursing centers and assisted living communities in Texas. With the support of families and local communities, long term care providers are taking care of their residents as well as residents from other centers in the affected region against incredible odds. 
"It is humbling to hear the reports of staff working around-the-clock to care for the residents, putting these men and women before their own needs, despite their own losses," said Texas Health Care Association (THCA) President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Warren, in a statement. "Times like these really do reveal the true character of people, and I am proud to be a part of the long term care industry and to see the incredible efforts on display," he said.
HMG Healthcare, LLC., which operates skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers in several locations throughout the city of Houston, the greater Houston area, and Kansas, was prepared in advance, evacuating a number of residents and staff to safety before the storm hit.
"It's been such a challenge," says Leticia Caballero, director of government relations at HMG Healthcare, based in The Woodlands, Texas. "It's been very much all hands on deck as everyone continues to deal with the flooding." 
Staff and over 90 residents at two locations in the Rockport area–Gulf Pointe Plaza, a skilled nursing center and Gulf Pointe Village, an assisted living community–evacuated successfully to safe locations before the storm hit. Both centers were under a voluntary evacuation per local officials, says Caballero. Residents and staff at Gulf Pointe Plaza were evacuated to Park Manor Bee Cave, a skilled nursing center in Austin, Texas, and residents and staff at Gulf Pointe Village were relocated to Forum Parkway Health and Rehabilitation, a skilled nursing center located in Bedford, Texas.
About 74-75 residents loaded buses and vans and some traveled by ambulance the care centers in Austin and Bedford.
"We were ready for them," says Caballero. "The staff ordered extra beds and doubled up to take care of the new residents and the staff who came with them." Everyone from administrators to nursing staff relocated with residents, in an effort to ensure that there was not a break in anyone's care, she says.
Amber Mikulik, assistant director of nursing at Gulf Pointe Plaza, says that staff have shown tremendous dedication by leaving their own loved ones to stay with the residents. “It has been great to have the staff at Park Manor jump in and help,” she says. “A number of Gulf Pointe Plaza staff, including nurses and all department heads, have stayed with the residents since the beginning, and for the residents to see those familiar faces really helps them.”
Gulf Pointe Plaza staff and residents evacuated Aug. 24, arriving in Austin at midnight and working until 3:30am the next morning until the last resident was safe at Park Manor. “Everyone helped, even the firefighters of Rockport during the evacuation,” she says. “They didn’t leave until the last resident boarded.”
According to Mikulik, the coordination between Gulf Pointe Plaza and Park Manor staff has worked incredibly well to coordinate medications, clothing, food, and other items for the residents and staff.
Sheltering in Place
Caballero says that HMG's 11 centers in Houston have been sheltering in place since it all began last Friday. "No one ever projected this much flooding," she says. "We made sure that the facilities had plenty of food and medical supplies before the storm hit."
HMG says they continue to manage the situation in the Houston area centers, dealing with issues of flooding and electricity.
"We have a tremendously dedicated staff that have stayed with the residents since the storm began," says Caballero.
Residents Receive Vital Medications
Nursing center residents in Beaumont, Texas, received medications this week thanks to efforts of PharMerica. The company, which services 61 centers in greater southeast Texas, began efforts on Tuesday to charter a helicopter from the National Guard to deliver medications from the company’s Houston pharmacy to nursing center patients that could not be reached due to flooded roads. Nurses and staff at 11 centers worked around the clock to service patients. PharMerica pharmacy employees from Cleveland, Ohio, also relocated to Houston to assist with the effort.
T.J. Griffin, chief pharmacy officer at PharMerica, says that the real heroes in the effort are the staff in the nursing centers. “When you think about the CNAs, the administrators, and all the staff that have been there for that long since the hurricane began, it’s our duty to do whatever is necessary and make sure they have what they need," he says. "They are the ones on the front lines.”
Statewide Coordination Continues
THCA says it has been supporting statewide outreach efforts in coordination with state officials to identify any available beds for the possibility of additional evacuations, should the need arise.
"The health and safety of the residents is the number one priority for these long term care communities," Warren said. "Any support and coordination with the state agencies, the business community and volunteers that we can offer, while they work tirelessly, we're committed to figure out a way to make it happen."
THCA is setting up a Hurricane Relief Fund through their foundation to assist their members' employees that have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey. For more information, visit http://www.txhca.org.
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