While the headlines focused on the hospitals forced to evacuate patients, the floods caused by Hurricane Harvey forced nearly two-thirds of doctors in the Houston area to temporarily close their practices.
The hurricane took a major toll on physicians and their practices, and that disruption affected significant numbers of patients, according to the Texas Medical Association, which surveyed doctors about the impact of the hurricane.
Sixty-five percent of survey respondents said they temporarily closed their doors, 35% reduced hours or services and 6% said they had to relocate, according to the survey. The association said the hurricane, which hit in late August, left tens of thousands of patients without their doctors in the immediate aftermath.
Many doctors’ offices in southeast Texas had major damage from the winds and floodwaters. Some reported losing everything but the outer shells of their buildings. Practices lost 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 and computers, the association reported.
This week, the association began distributing the first funds from its disaster relief program to help physicians rebuild, providing nearly $350,000 to the first 28 medical practices to apply for assistance. Those practices employ 107 physicians and 936 staff members. Physicians located in a federally declared disaster area have been applying for assistance not covered by insurance to speed the reopening of their offices, the association said.
“We want to help physicians throughout the disaster area recover and rebuild as soon as possible, because their communities’ patients are struggling, their staffs are hurting, and they are straining to get their practices up and running again,” said Carlos J. Cardenas, M.D., association president.
The association is near its goal of raising $1 million or more, with donations and pledges reaching a little more than $997,000, including money from physicians around the country and physician groups. The association is accepting contributions to the relief program.
Texas physicians discuss rebuilding efforts in the video below.