Cold snap makes for slow week

‘We can operate but there’s not a lot of business coming in,’ said one provider. ‘Most businesses are closed.’
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Friday, February 1, 2019

CHICAGO – HME providers last week curtailed deliveries and sent employees home as record-breaking cold gripped much of the Midwest.

A polar vortex sent temperatures plummeting into the negative double-digits in some areas, forcing schools and businesses to close, disrupting travel and even suspending mail delivery.

Prism Healthcare in Schaumberg, Ill., where the temperature dipped to minus 21 on Wednesday, enacted its emergency preparedness plan, bringing in only a skeleton staff and allowing some employees to work remotely.

“We are only doing emergency deliveries for the next 24 to 48 hours,” said Neidi Mack, vice president of ancillary services. “The safety of employees is equally important, and we are making sure they are not stranded on the road, with trucks in functioning order, with heat and full tanks of gas.”

It was much the same for Oxygen One, in Waukesha, Wis., with intake and patient care teams handling calls remotely from home, and with delivery techs on standby on Monday and again on Wednesday, when the temperature hit minus 26, said Rick Adamich, president.

“We are committed to a minimum two-hour response time for emergency calls and hospital discharges, even in this weather,” he said. “We actually had very few emergency calls and no calls from patients with power outages.”

Many employees at Fairmeadows Home Health Center in Schererville, Ind., couldn’t get their cars started, and those who did and made it into work were eventually sent home, said George Kucka, president.

“We can operate but there’s not a lot of business coming in,” he said on Wednesday. “We are turning on the answering service about 1:30. Most businesses are closed—I think people want to get home before it gets dark.”

With doctors offices closed and patients cancelling appointments, provider Robyn Parrott anticipates a backlog when things return to normal. The weekend forecast called for temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees and sunny skies in Illinois and elsewhere.

“This will have an effect in the next few weeks,” said Parrot, president of Detroit, Mich.-based Sleep Solutions, where the minus 13 temperature on Wednesday broke a 99-year-old record.  “With offices closed we are unable to obtain prescriptions for supply patients and patients will have to reschedule their appointments since many offices are closed which will delay set up.”

In the meantime, many providers took advantage of the quiet to catch up on other things.

“We are getting some stuff done in the warehouse today,” said Dan Heckman, owner of Heckman Healthcare in Decatur, Ill. “We know the cold weather will be over in a day or two, which makes it easier to bear.”