Lessons for pharmacy from Hurricane Ian

Written by | 16 Feb 2023 | 'In Discussion With'

Reflecting on his experiences during and after hurricane Ian, John A. Armitstead, System Director of Pharmacy at Lee Health in Fort Myers, Florida, says how proud he is of the dedication and professionalism of his staff for the way in which they responded to the demands of the situation.

After hurricane Ian, the pharmacy service at Lee Health was able to provide medication therapy for any patient, whether inpatient or outpatient, who presented. In doing this, the five hospital outpatient pharmacies saw their workload increase threefold.

Mr Armitstead pays tribute to the dedication and professionalism of his staff. He says: “I was proud of all my staff but particularly proud of the step up that was made in the outpatient and retail pharmacies as they had a surge of prescriptions that was probably three times their normal prescription volume. Imagine a pharmacy that is built to do two to three hundred prescriptions a day that is now doing anywhere between 700 to 900 prescriptions a day, and …. not only [having] the supplies to be able to provide those prescriptions but the personnel to be able to provide those prescriptions 24/7 in a time period where a lot of people did not even know the impact of the hurricane on their own home”.

Some members of his staff had themselves experienced devastating losses. “I did have some people that were totally flooded out with their home and lost their car and still came into work. So, I mean it’s quite admirable to be able to provide care as a caregiver but knowing that you lost your all your possessions”, he says.

He continues: “This [hurricane] was quite dramatic. We usually think that in regards to hurricanes we over-prepare because sometimes we get ready and we do some of these things and the hurricane does not hit. In this case, we prepared and we were ready and we provided care. We did not really [foresee] that the devastation that happened to the community would be as widespread as it was. In this case, like I mentioned, there was the wind and the rain and that did some damage but the storm surge provided the devastating damage in Lee County, Florida this year”.

Mr Armitstead acknowledges that there are always lessons to be learned from reflecting on how well the emergency plans worked. He cites one example of an adaptation that worked particularly well: “In one of our hospitals we turned our retail pharmacy into a drive-through retail pharmacy. We used the front drive-through of the hospital to provide care, so we actually were delivering prescriptions out to the kerb where patients were waiting in their cars, to alleviate the volume of traffic of patients coming into the hospital”, he says.

He also notes that they did not run out of any drug that was needed. “Overall, I think it really was something that the team really made as successful as it could be”, he adds.

In conclusion, Mr Armitstead says that he continues to build on his experience of previous hurricanes. It is important to have a written plan and he advises pharmacists to “think about not only your employees but the pharmaceuticals and the supply chain and the unique needs post-hurricane – and you really need to take those learnings and put them together to enhance your plans each and every time. So, we will make revisions to our disaster plan ….. such that we’ve got a better plan next time”.

Read and watch the full series on our website or on YouTube.

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