Relief Program Launched to Reopen Hurricane-Devastated Medical Practices

 Hurricane Harvey Flooding During and After 864x245

 Sept. 12, 2017

When staff of a Houston-area children’s urgent care clinic saw security-camera images of brown, murky Hurricane Harvey floodwater submerging the waiting room, they knew it was bad. Quickly, the physicians and other clinic workers jumped into action. Soon they also consulted the Texas Medical Association (TMA) for help, and learned about the TMA Disaster Relief Program. 

TMA recently started the program to help physicians reestablish practices destroyed by Harvey and its winds and floodwaters. For many doctor’s offices throughout southeast Texas, damage is terrific. X-ray machines and other diagnostic equipment, exam tables, instruments, and “inventory” ranging from bandages to stethoscopes to tongue depressors — as well as office furniture, computers, and everything else one can imagine in a doctor’s office — all destroyed.

The physicians are compelled to clear away the mud, mold, and debris and rebuild to open again as soon as possible for their patients.

“People need their doctor, and so many of our physicians suffered total, devastating losses to their medical practices as a result of Hurricane Harvey,” said TMA President Carlos J. Cardenas, MD. “We wanted to jump in and help them rebuild or relocate as quickly as possible, because their patients need them.”

Prior to Harvey Waiting Room 190x190 The TMA Disaster Relief Program aims to help the countless medical practices across south and coastal bend Texas facing a similar fate return to caring for their patients as quickly as possible.

We feel the loss from a community standpoint. Everybody keeps calling us — people were coming up to the door even the day after the storm, to get their children seen,” said Anastasia Gentles, MD, a physician at the NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care clinic. “We know they’re missing us.” She and her colleagues also want to reopen quickly to help the people employed in the practice get back to work soon, as many of them also lost their home or cars in the flood.  

Funds The Disaster Relief Program distributes will help physicians pay for storm loss expenses their insurance or other sources will not cover. The goal is to raise at least $1 million.

Organized medicine across the nation has answered the call. State, national, and specialty medical societies from coast to coast, in addition to physicians and others across Texas, already have so far pledged or donated nearly $250,000. The total amount raised and available thus far is $406,456, thanks to additional reserves of $160,000 left from similar previous fundraising efforts. Many medical societies are spreading the word about the TMA fund, urging their in-state physicians to donate as well.

“Doctors understand the call to care for their patients, and empathize with colleagues stripped of the ability to help their people, their community,” said Dr. Cardenas. “So we’re thrilled — but not really surprised — that these physicians and their organizations are opening their wallets to help Texas doctors help Texas patients. This storm was a monster, and communities across the south are hurting; they need to get back to normal, and they have basic needs like food, shelter, and health care. We want them to regain that access to their hometown doctor as quickly as possible.”

The California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Rhode Island state medical associations already have pledged or sent generous donations. The American Medical Association has made the largest donation to date, $150,000.

TMA created similar fund drives after hurricanes Rita and Ike in 2005 and 2008, donating between $5,000 and $8,000 to each medical practice in need. TMA received $700,000 in contributions to the fund in 2008. TMA’s philanthropic arm, TMA Foundation, is overseeing fundraising, and The Physicians Benevolent Fund is administering the TMA Disaster Relief Program. TMA says any Texas physician whose practice was damaged by Harvey may apply for assistance from the TMA program (the application should be  posted on or soon after Sept. 18).

Watch this video of the floodwaters in the Humble clinic - and hear Dr. Gentles' story.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 50,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. TMA Foundation raises funds to support the population health, quality of care and science priority initiatives of TMA and the Family of Medicine.

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Contact:  Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear@texmed.org

Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper@texmed.org

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Check out MeAndMyDoctor.com for interesting and timely news on health care issues and policy.

Published On

September 12, 2017