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Home Medical Equipment Providers in Path of Hurricane Sandy Struggle to Reach Patients Who Require Oxygen and Other Services
Date:11/1/2012

NEW YORK, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Home medical equipment providers in the New York region are battling flood waters, downed trees, and hazardous electrical wires to deliver oxygen and other homecare services and supplies to seniors and people living with disabilities who depend on them, reports the American Association for Homecare.

"We are first responders," declared David Chase, president of Hampton Homecare, as he described the dangerous obstacles that his employees face as they deliver oxygen tanks to patients on Long Island.  

"Our employees are traveling down roads before they are cleared," Chase said. "We are responding to people who are living in their cars.  We are really concerned about the people we can't reach, the people who have no phone service.  We have started going door to door looking for our customers in their neighborhoods."

Chase is one of the many providers along the East Coast who have responded heroically in the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the region. By all accounts, the home medical equipment sector has responded to the disaster with dedicated service to ensure that Medicare patients and other customers are receiving the medical equipment and services they need to sustain their daily lives.

"The role of home medical equipment providers is often overlooked during natural disasters," said Tyler Wilson, president and CEO of the American Association for Homecare.  "But they are on the front lines making sure that their customers are receiving the medical equipment and services they depend on."

Tom Ryan, owner of Homecare Concepts in Farmingdale, N.Y., said his employees have walked large oxygen tanks down blocks on dollies only to find they can't get to homes with trees and wires down. 

"The hurricane has been horrific," said Ryan. "My staff is working with spotty cell service from their homes and my office, which has no phone service. We have seven trucks dispatched and driving on treacherous roads with no traffic signal lights and downed wires and trees. We are actively calling all our oxygen patients. I have cases where drivers literally cannot get to the homes with downed trees."

Moreover, Ryan noted that hospitals are filling up with patients unable to get back-up oxygen.

Ben Allison, president of Care One Home Medical in Manhattan, said that after previously experiencing blizzards and blackouts, his firm was well prepared for the storm. He knew in advance, from his experience with Hurricane Irene, which of patients' homes might be at risk for flooding and loss of power. 

"Preparation is a big advantage," Allison said. "And we have an outstanding staff that has gone above and beyond the call of duty." He said getting vans to apartment buildings has been very difficult but not the only obstacle, especially in buildings where power was lost and elevators aren't working. 

"Some deliveries of back-up oxygen have required employees to haul 'E' tanks up as many as 41 flights of dark stairs to bed-bound patients who have lost telephone service as well as electricity."

Daniel DeSimone, president and CEO of Continued Care of Long Island, noted that his company is working to ensure that as many oxygen patients as possible in his community get their oxygen, whether they are his clients or not.

"We are providing oxygen to patients who are not ours," he said, noting that many of his competitors are still unable to operate because of the storm. 

But DeSimone cautioned that after the government's controversial bidding procurement system starts in his community the middle of next year, his company won't be able to provide this community service. 

Tom Ryan said the power and transportation obstacles to serving patients may continue for days or even weeks.  "But this is what we do. We care for our patients. I know my employees and I know others will also rise to the occasion and get the job done."

The American Association for Homecare represents durable medical equipment providers and manufacturers who serve the medical needs of millions of Americans who require oxygen equipment and therapy, mobility devices, medical supplies, inhalation drug therapy, and other medical equipment and services in their homes. Members operate more than 3,000 homecare locations in all 50 states.  Please visit www.aahomecare.org.  


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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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