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Dialysis clinics weather the devastation from Oklahoma tornado

May 22, 2013
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For dialysis patients and staff at clinics near Moore, Okla., this week, the destruction from one of the largest tornados in U.S. history has left an unforgettable mark.

In Jason Grayson’s Oklahoma City office are building plans for a new dialysis facility, just approved for construction. Grayson is pitching his company, dialysis provider Fresenius Medical Care North America, to include a “safe room” in the plans to protect staff and patients in case of any natural disaster.

Based on weather conditions this week, that decision would make sense: The dialysis clinic is destined for the suburb of Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb that was split open by a tornado this past Monday. The tornado ripped a 21-mile runway through town, leveling neighborhoods and killing 24 people, according to the latest estimates.

(How dialysis patients were cared for while Boston was on lockdown)

Emergency workers pulled more than 100 survivors from the debris of homes, schools, and a hospital after the tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City region with winds exceeding 200 miles per hour, leaving a trail of destruction 17 miles long by 1.3 miles wide.

For dialysis providers Fresenius and DaVita, the disaster did no structural damage to the dialysis clinics in the immediate area. The biggest challenge was dealing with power outages and interrupted water supply. Both companies brought in back-up generators and potable water via trucks to help keep their clinics in operation.

(American Kidney Fund Activates Disaster Relief Program to help dialysis patients affected by recent tornadoes)

 “This is clearly the biggest disaster I have seen in my experience,” said Dave Richardson, DaVita’s division vice president of a region that includes Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Montana.

Richardson is in charge of 11 facilities in the Oklahoma City area; three were temporarily shut down after the tornado struck. One facility was flooded; the other two were unable to get fresh water and faced power outages. Two of the three dialysis clinics were back online yesterday. Portable generators were brought in to keep two dialysis clinics running.

While no DaVita staffers were injured during the storm, four lost their homes due to the tornado’s destruction, and two other had severe damage, Richardson said. "We are very proud of our teammates” and the work they did with making sure patients got their needed treatments, he said. All of DaVita’s 560 patients and 200 DaVita personnel in the area were accounted for. 

They could hear the tornado
Fresenius had dialysis clinics closer to the epicenter –– close enough, said Grayson, that employees could hear the roar of the tornado. “We have our Southwest unit on 104th Street. The tornado’s main path was around 149th street. So our staff members could hear the tornado.” That dialysis clinic went into “code black,” where all patients were taken off dialysis and some were placed in a safe room with staff members.

All Fresenius dialysis clinics were back in operation yesterday, said Grayson, who oversees dialysis clinic operations for Fresenius in West Texas and Oklahoma. Similar to DaVita, two clinics were shut down due to adequate water supplies. A third dialysis clinic had to use a back-up generator for power and a tanker truck with potable water was brought in to keep the clinic open. Some patients were diverted to some of the other 12 Fresenius-owned clinics in the Oklahoma City area. Fresenius also had to divert patients to other facilities after three hospitals where it provided acute care services lost access to water during the disaster.

Six Fresenius employees had their homes either completed destroyed by the tornado, or had damage, said Grayson. Two patients had their homes destroyed as well. One patient died during the storm after suffering a heart attack. “We have a disaster relief fund for staff and patients, and the company has told us ‘whatever we need, its ours.’”

ESRD Network 13, which covers the state of Oklahoma, is maintaining a list of dialysis clinics that are open or closed as a result of the tornado. You can access that list here. In addition, these telephone numbers may also be helpful:

FMCNA - Patient Hotline 1.800.626.1297
DaVita - Patient Hotline 1.800.400.8331
FMQAI: ESRD Network 13 (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma) 1.800.472.8664

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