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Providers of Durable Medical Equipment Ensure Independence and Safety during Extreme Weather and Power Outages

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- During the recent extreme weather and power outages across the country, providers of durable medical equipment and services have been working alongside other first responders to ensure the safety of seniors and people with disabilities.

Millions of seniors and people with disabilities require some form of home medical equipment and services in the home, such as oxygen therapy, ventilators, hospital beds, or wheelchairs, says the American Association for Homecare.

Homecare providers are especially concerned about power outages, which can be deadly for people who require a concentrator to generate oxygen to treat lung diseases or chronic heart failure, or a ventilator for breathing.  These devices run on electricity.

Home MediService, based in Havre de Grace, Maryland, serves about 1,500 oxygen patients across several counties in Maryland as well as parts of Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Joe McGrain, distribution operations manager for the company, described their response to the storm that slammed into the Mid-Atlantic on Friday, June 29, which caused massive power outages.

"Beginning about 4:30 a.m. on Saturday June 30, we started receiving calls from patients without power. We received a total of 33 calls on Saturday and Sunday and responded to 21 to deliver additional back-up oxygen." 

McGrain said they evaluated each call to determine the patient's oxygen flow rate and quantity of back up oxygen in the home, and then dispatched additional back up supplies accordingly.

"Through this event we had no patients who were without oxygen. Through this week there are still patients in our service area without power and we are delivering oxygen daily if needed, depending on their liter flow."  

McGrain added, "Our emergency plan has proven itself through this event. Because of our adequate back-up and training during the initial set up, many of our patients were prepared and therefore did not need immediate dispatch."

In a region hit by severe flooding, a home medical equipment provider in Florida has loaned out nearly all of its wheelchairs to patients at no charge. TJ McEnany, vice president of Wheelchairs Plus in Middleburg, Fla. said, "Several weeks after the most recent flooding rains, we are seeing rivers just now cresting at record breaking levels. As a result we have seen a need for mobility and other medical equipment due to existing equipment being literally washed away, in most cases unfortunately along with the patient's homes."

"Delivering this equipment was not easy since most of the recipients had to be relocated just before their homes were flooded," he said.

Similarly, last August, home medical equipment providers from the Carolinas to New England prepared their customers for and then responded to the havoc created by Hurricane Irene.  The companies receive no extra compensation from Medicare for providing emergency services. 

"Providers of home medical equipment and services ensure patient safety during extreme weather," said Tyler J. Wilson, president of the American Association for Homecare, which represents providers of home medical equipment and services.

"This illustrates the vital role of these homecare providers in our healthcare system. Whether because of the devastation caused by the heat wave, power outages, wildfires, or floods, our members continually demonstrate why the nation needs a strong, robust infrastructure for providing medical equipment to seniors in their homes. Ensuring safety and independence for people who require medical equipment and services at home prevents hospitalizations and ER trips, which also helps to control healthcare costs."

The American Association for Homecare represents durable medical equipment providers and others  in the homecare community who serve the medical needs of millions of Americans who require oxygen equipment and therapy, mobility assistive technologies, 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.  American Association for Homecare, 2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 725, Arlington, VA 22202, 703-836-6263




SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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