Friday, September 02, 2005

Chaos in Louisiana

Yesterday I spent about 5 hours in the triage room at a local shelter. I was at an unrelated hospital function and the CEO walks in and tells a group of us (me, a pharmacist, and the rest Docs) that 400 'patients' had just been dropped off at a local shelter. We all boarded ambulances and went out there. Words can not describe what I walked into.

I was immediately put in charge of the drugs that had been delivered to help the refugees. There was practically no space. I had two tables piled high of drugs in no particular order, not to mention they were seeing patients in that room as well.

They gave me a few nurses to help me organize and so I started working with a local internist helping patients with their meds.

There was no air conditioning. Did I mention that this is summer in Louisiana?

The internist and I did the best we could trying to figure out 1) what these folks had actually been taking and 2) converting those meds to something we actually had.

The more sick patients that were being acutely treated were suffering from ugly looking cellulitis, out-of-control diabetes (Insulin was huge!!!), asthma exacerbations and lots of nausea and vomiting.

Yesterday I became one of those people with a cell phone attached to the side of their heads, sometimes both sides for me. People were handing me cell phones to talk with regional directors of La emergency services (very helpful) and regional directors of the American Red Cross (not so helpful).

Here's the largest, most profound problem recognized by all medical personnel yesterday: People needed to get prescriptions filled. Many are already in the system for state medicare or had private insurance - but didn't have 3 bucks for the co-pay. I see all of these corporations giving a million bucks in cash which is a good thing-but for at least one corporation out there I know of a great need that has not been met yet. But what we really, really needed was for a drug chain to step forward and volunteer to cover peoples co-pay for refugees. Can you imagine how many prescriptions could be filled with a one million dollar donation for co-pays?? Many, many of our problems would have been solved.

I definetly want to mention the several drug company reps that were carting in boxes and boxes of free samples to be dispensed, and local hospitals were taking down laundry lists of drugs (that are not sampled because they are older drugs available generically) who came out and delivered these supplies to us. I know of at least one major drug company that will send overnight free drug to a patient with a physician phone call. We even had private Docs cleaning out their sample closets and bringing in shopping bags of drugs.

After speaking with a higher up in a major national drug chain...all I got was a line about how they would be interested in taking care of their 'customers' by looking up refills and filling the prescription. He could not get it through his noodle that I had an army of Docs ready to call/write valid scripts and that I was looking for a corporate donation to step up to the plate and give their money for co-pays. It was very frustrating. Finally he stated that if the patient had an American Red Cross voucher they would take care of the co-pay.

Okay, so then I'm off to talk with the Red Cross to ask where these magical vouchers could be located.

Regional director American Red Cross: "We're still working on that, but our national office has to approve it."

What the hell??

So here is my notice to the National Office of the American Red Cross: There's been a devastating hurricane hit Louisiana and people are being admitted to every local hospital because of DKA, Hypertensive emergencies, etc.... Because they don't have their freaking meds. The personnel is in place, that's not an issue - could we get some of those vouchers already??


Get your latest hurricane nightmare stories at Drudge or any other news source you like.

PS: Our local stations ran out of Gasoline yesterday? How 'bout them apples!