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Putting Patients First. Especially When Disaster Strikes

Hurricane Harvey’s relentless rain, tornadoes, and damaging winds disrupted lives along the Texas coast. None more so than cancer patients who needed treatment and care despite the disaster. Texas Oncology employees across Texas mobilized to put patients first and help them in their time of greatest need.

Banning Together

“We see our patients as family and when family is impacted, everyone rallies around them,” said Dr. Vivek Kavadi, radiation oncologist at Texas Oncology–Deke Slayton Cancer Center and Texas Oncology–Sugar Land. “It’s part of our culture. It’s about collaboration and working together.”

Despite inabilities to get out of their own homes, Texas Oncology employees knew they still had jobs to do for patients. Many left their own leaking roofs, power outages, and family needs, to provide necessary services to patients as soon as possible.

The Challenges (and Solutions)

With cities like Webster experiencing 48 inches of torrential rainfall and Beaumont’s city officials forced to turn off the city’s water supply, communication, flexibility, and creativity were the name of the game to ensure patients could resume treatments quickly.

Road and facility closures

For older patients, driving was a huge challenge. Texas Oncology established a command post in Sugar Land, the highest ground, led by Dr. Kavadi. Employees joined across locations to proactively call patients to make alternate arrangements and provide updates, as well as updates on social media. Drs. Susan Escudier and Lawrence Foote traveled to the command post to treat patients redirected from flooded facilities. Additionally, transportation to the command post was arranged for patients that were displaced from their primary site of treatment. The center opened the weekend after the storm, so that the most urgent patients could receive treatment as soon as possible.

When the storm subsided and it was safe to venture out, restoration crews quickly worked to restore and prepare impacted facilities for patients. Prior to the storm, the team wisely placed chemotherapy drugs in coolers and then in the refrigerator in case of a power outage. This forethought resulted in zero loss of these important and costly medications, which made them immediately available for patients instead of having to wait for replenished supplies.

Rebuilding, Stronger Than Ever

“Even though we were prepared, we couldn’t have anticipated this level of devastation,” said Kevin Vineyard, Gulf Coast executive director at Texas Oncology. “Digesting and acting on all of the emotions, fears, damage, and worries that come with a 1,000-year flood really pushed everyone emotionally. It touched everyone who was here and saw its impact.”

Texas Oncology, but most importantly, the teams in the Gulf Coast, demonstrated that even amid extreme disaster, patients come first, to receive the care they need.

Vineyard added, “It’s a matter of being a servant leader, getting resources to practices as soon as possible, understanding what they need, and getting them help. The Gulf Coast is a strong team. Their hard work and dedication has made a huge difference for our patients. They believe in the mission and vision of putting patients first.”