Pharmacy Practice

Hurricane Florence Results in Surge of Outpatient Prescriptions at Hospital in New Bern

Cheryl Thompson
Cheryl A. Thompson Director News Center Published: September 17, 2018

 Storm Surge“We are OK,” said pharmacy director Genelle Butz mid-Monday from her office at CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern, N.C., where the storm surge from Hurricane Florence flooded much of the community last week.

The mandatory evacuation notice that county officials issued on September 11 remains in effect.

Most pharmacy staff members at the 301-bed hospital, which remains on lockdown, have been sleeping on cots in the department’s storerooms, Butz said.

CarolinaEast Medical CenterStaff members like herself, who have an office, have been sleeping there rather than in a storeroom.

Before the hurricane made landfall, Butz said, the department stocked up on the usual supplies for sustaining the hospital through the storm.

“The one gap that we did not account for was all of the local pharmacies being closed for so long,” she said.

Members of the community receiving treatment in the medical center’s emergency department (ED) have needed to have prescriptions filled. CarolinaEast Medical Center operates an inpatient pharmacy and a small employees-only pharmacy but not an outpatient pharmacy.


“The first night that we offered outpatient prescriptions [through an emergency waiver] we were offering basically a five-day supply to ... get people through the storm,” Butz said. “And we ran low on a few antibiotics.”

Supplies in the employees-only pharmacy were not enough to fulfill ED patients’ needs, she said.

“We managed to reach out to one of the other local hospitals, Vidant Medical Center,” Butz said. “And their director was able to scramble [up] a fair amount of medication.”

At first the plan was to have the medications airlifted from Vidant Medical Center in Greenville to CarolinaEast Medical Center.

“But we managed to find enough roads open that one of our maintenance employees drove up there to pick up the inventory for us and drove it back,” she said.

“So, since Wednesday night, we’ve been supplying outpatient prescriptions,” Butz said. “And even now, local pharmacies are on limited hours, so we’re still trying to make sure that we can maintain [supplies of] what people need.”

In preparation for the storm and its aftermath, pharmacy leaders devised schedules so that staff members could work shifts “in stretches so that they would be here for multiple days,” she said. Leaders wanted to avoid having people leave after one day and then return two days later. Except for “running a little slim” on pharmacy technicians skilled in preparing IV solutions, she said, staffing has been sufficient.

Butz arrived at the hospital at 5 a.m. on Thursday — with “a ton of chocolate,” she said — and left only on Saturday, to check on her house. It survived. Her garage did not, she said, and neither did her neighbors’ houses.

“We are a lucky department,” Butz declared. “We’ve had minimal damage. From our employee side, we’ve got a list going in my office of everybody we think that had damage.... So far we only think [there’s] one that may have had a total loss.”
Posted September 17, 2018

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