2012-12-07 / Top Stories

St. John's Episcopal HospitalDialysis Patients Get Relief

Dialysis patients in need from St. John's Episcopal Hospital Hemodialysis Center received $2,200 in disaster relief funds from the American Kidney Foundation, for a variety of uses including medications, transportation, or replacement of flooddamaged possessions. The American Kidney Foundation also provided free doses of a medication, Renvela, associated with dialysis that may have been difficult to obtain due to pharmacy closures or because of a New York City Medicaid computer failure due to Hurricane Sandy.

Many dialysis patients from South Shore communities found themselves cut off from their thrice-weekly life-sustaining treatments, because dialysis centers and nursing homes flooded or because of transportation disruptions. Many turned to the Dialysis Center at St. John's Episcopal Hospital. In the first few days after the storm, the dialysis staff worked 24 hours a day providing dialysis to those in need from the surrounding communities.

"Thank God for St. John's," said nurse's aide Renee Oliver who was accompanying three patients from a nearby nursing home which flooded. "They didn't have to take us in and St. John's went through a lot (of red tape) to get the okay," she added. Dialysis is strictly regulated. St. John's had to obtain special permission from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and New York State Department of Health to convert inpatient dialysis beds to outpatient use and to add an additional dialysis station in order to fit all the patients in.

Other patients were like 80-year-old Leonardo Thompson, who is legally blind and whose dialysis center was flooded and will not be back in operation for months. "I didn't know where I get my next treatment or how I would get there," Thompson said. He and his wife had evacuated from his Far Rockaway home before his basement flooded. After calling many area dialysis centers and getting turned away, he came to St. John's intending to get dialysis through the Emergency Department but found his way directly to the Dialysis Center. "I am extremely happy here at St. John's. Words are inadequate to express my thanks. I don't want to go anyplace else. This is home for me now," he added.

Throughout the storm and the weeks that followed, St. John's saw a 40 percent increase in inpatient volume and Emergency Department patient volume. Many were evacuees from neighboring nursing homes and adult homes. It included nearby residents who needed electricity for respirators, oxygen, medications and much more. The night of the storm the Hospital lobby became a shelter for many desperate community residents. In the following two weeks, the Hospital helped provide access to shelters, food, emergency medications and electricity for cell phones for the ravaged community. For staff the Hospital set up an place for hot showers, three hot meals a day, a daycare and a "respite area" with counseling.

The recovery is ongoing but difficult. The Hospital continues to be at nearly 100 percent capacity, often because there are few places to which patients can be discharged. Nearby nursing homes and adult homes have been evacuated and are not yet reopened. Patients with special needs may have lost homes or cannot go back to homes without electricity or heat. Staff, many of them without homes or who have been evacuated, also need places to stay so they can continue to work.

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