In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, 130 dialysis patients from the island of St. Thomas found refuge in Puerto Rico. But Puerto Rico provided only a temporary respite on a multiple-stop journey for these patients. Soon, Hurricane Maria would bear down on the island leaving it, too, in ruins.
The plight of those 130 patients demonstrates the incredible challenges that faced dialysis providers, government agencies, and volunteer organizations responding to one of the worst hurricane seasons in memory. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma alone affected 50,000 dialysis patients at 750 dialysis facilities, according to Darlene Rodgers, CNN, RN, a nurse clinical consultant at ASN and Nephrologists Transforming Dialysis Safety who helped with the organizations’ disaster response. An additional 6000 dialysis patients resided in Puerto Rico before Hurricane Maria hit.
Rodgers joined a panel of first responders at Kidney Week 2017 to share lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane season for nephrologists and dialysis providers. Among the key challenges they highlighted were the need for improved communications systems, coordinated disaster response among agencies and nonprofits, and solid disaster plans.