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ASHP Recognizes Pharmacists, Pharmacy Departments’ Care for Patients in Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Published Online: Monday, June 3, 2013

PRESS RELEASE

(June 3, 2013) The pharmacy departments of six hospitals whose communities were affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as well as a pharmacist from Minnesota were honored today by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ (ASHP’s) Chief Executive Officer’s Award for Courageous Service. The awards, given to the recipients for their outstanding efforts to serve patients, were presented during the Opening Session of the Society’s Summer Meeting in Minneapolis.

Established in 2000, the ASHP Chief Executive Officer’s Award for Courageous Service recognizes individuals or groups of individuals in health-system pharmacy who go beyond the call or assignment of duty to serve patients or assist pharmacists in serving patients, under emergency conditions or in times of natural disaster or other cataclysmic events.  The award honors incidents of inspiring, unselfish service under adverse conditions.
 
The winners went to extraordinary efforts to serve patients during and after Hurricane Sandy. This service was performed even as many of the hospitals in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut lost power and public utilities.
 
Pharmacy staff helped transfer patients, in many cases personally carrying patients down stairwells lit only by flashlight. In other cases, hospitals that retained power accepted the large influx of patients from disabled hospitals.
 
The award winners are:
 
AtlantiCare Health System Pharmacy Staff Service Line (Atlantic County, NJ)
 
At AtlantiCare Health System in NJ, staff tapped into their health system’s emergency preparedness infrastructure, determined which services to cancel, and discharged as many patients as possible. Concerned about the possibility of running short on medications, staff coordinated with the hospital’s drug distributor to ensure ample supplies. Due to the hurricane, the staff at the medical center stayed at the hospital for several days in empty hospital beds and on air mattresses. They also served as a retail pharmacy for the community’s prescription needs during the time that local pharmacies were closed. Following the storm, clinics were set up outside of the emergency department providing support to the community because local pharmacies could not open due to the flooding and power outages.

Bellevue Hospital Center pharmacy staff (New York, NY)
 
After the hospital lost power, pharmacists were deployed to all critical nursing units to communicate with physicians and nurses and to discuss patient medication needs. Pharmacy staff in the main pharmacy worked in teams with flashlights and lanterns to maintain pharmaceutical services for over 700 patients. As a result of these extraordinary efforts, no patient missed a dose for the four to six days they remained in the hospital. When the hospital subsequently lost water and sewer capabilities, the pharmacy staff jumped into action to ensure continuity of care for over 700 patients who needed to be transferred, preparing a five-day supply of drugs for the patients.

Brookdale Hospital Medical Center pharmacy staff and the U.S. Public Health Service pharmacists serving on site (New York, NY)
 
The pharmacy staff worked with emergency support personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) who were deployed as a part of the federal response for Hurricane Sandy to take in 112 evacuees from neighboring hospitals nursing homes.
 
The USPHS nominees are a part of a USPHS Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) team which deployed to Brookdale Hospital Medical Center for 29 days. During the deployment, the pharmacy branch as part of the RDF team occupied two floors of the hospital to set up a Federal Medical Shelter. Working together, the medical center pharmacy staff and the USPHS pharmacists provided therapeutic assessments and helped maintain more than 300 medications which were dosed daily to maintain a continuum of care for patients.

David W. Fuhs, Pharm.D., M.S., FASHP, senior medical science liaison at GlaxoSmithKline
 
Fuhs is a member of the Minnesota Disaster Medical Assistance Team (which is part of Homeland Security), one of several DMAT teams from around the country that provided emergency care to the people in the area. He and his team of medical professionals attended to the needs of Hurricane Sandy victims in the aftermath of the devastating storm, providing  medical care and medications for those in need until services could be restored.

Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center pharmacy staff (Brooklyn, NY)
 
Due to Hurricane Sandy, Rutland Nursing Home at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center received approximately 170 patients from other nursing homes that were forced to evacuate patients. The patients’ medication management was not interrupted or compromised due to the medication reconciliation for these patients, who each were taking an average of 10 medications per day. Pharmacy staff conducted therapeutic interchange for non-formulary medications, ensured necessary lab work pertaining to medication use was completed, created virtual electronic medical records for each evacuee, and inventoried and stored all of the evacuees' own medications, ensuring the safe storage of narcotics and non-controlled drugs. Staff slept overnight at the hospital in order to ensure that all systems were working properly and medications were delivered to evacuees in a timely manner.

New York Presbyterian Hospital pharmacy staff and managers (New York, NY)
 
The dedication of the staff and the healthcare team at New York Presbyterian helped to ensure that patients in the New York City area received uninterrupted care. New York Presbyterian opened its doors to neighboring institutions that had to close due to the damage sustained during the storm, thus serving as a critical community resource. Over 50 percent of the staff slept on site for several days to ensure that patient care was not compromised.

NYU Langone Medical Center pharmacy staff (New York, NY)
 
Functioning under the conditions of little, then no electrical power, the pharmacy staff at NYU Langone Medical Center continuously provided service to over 300 patients during the process of total evacuation. Many staff moved beyond their operational roles to ensure patients were safe, including assisting transporting patients down stairwells. Managers and staff made frequent trips up and down 10 or more flights of stairs, delivering medications for patients being discharged to home or other facilities. This level of courageous service throughout the facility was noted in a telephone call from President Obama to the hospital leadership.
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