Hurricane Harvey, which devastated areas of southeast Texas, did not leave doctors unscathed.
In the aftermath of the deadly hurricane, stories emerged about hero doctors who took extraordinary steps to reach patients in need, as well as reports that many Texas physicians have lost their offices, medical records and equipment to the storm, as well as some who have lost their homes.
In Webster, Texas, a pediatric general surgeon used a canoe to make his way through flood waters in the dark on Saturday to perform surgery on a 16-year-old patient at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center. Stephen Kimmel, M.D., left his own house that was beginning to flood, and used the canoe with the help of two volunteer firefighters, to get to the hospital, according to Houston Public Media.
And as the hurricane dumped feet of rain on Houston Monday, oncologist Adi Diab, M.D., walked three miles through flooded streets to get to the MD Anderson Cancer Center to perform a potentially life-saving, cutting-edge treatment on a patient with stage 4 melanoma, according to STAT.
Doctors are also working in evacuation shelters to help those harmed by the flood and those who need care. Texas temporarily suspended barriers that prevent out-of-state healthcare providers from working with disaster response teams to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission said medical workers employed by any U.S. hospital, who are licensed and in good standing, do not need a Texas license to help, according to Dallas News. Telehealth providers are also providing care, MedCityNews reports, with some providing free telehealth consultations to those affected by the hurricane.
Physicians around the country are also rallying around their Texas colleagues. The Texas Medical Association has launched a relief fund to help. In a show of solidarity, the California Medical Association donated $10,000 to the fund and encouraged physicians to contribute to help Houston doctors get back on their feet. The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin also started a relief fund to help those affected by the floods and said its members in Texas will serve hurricane victims at no charge for the next several weeks.
Now that flood waters are receding, physicians are also working to get their practices up and running. The Texas Medical Association posted information for doctors whose practices have been affected by the hurricane, including what to do about computers and other devices that hold patients’ protected health information that were damaged in the flooding and even information about eligibility for a hardship exception if doctors are unable to meet requirements for the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).