One in 10 Louisianans relies on health centers for their care. Power is off for many.

By Noah Smith

Power should be restored to the Parish of New Orleans by Wednesday, according to officials from the City of New Orleans and Entergy, the region’s largest energy provider.

CrisisReady, a research partnership between Direct Relief and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, is working to better understand the impact of power outages on the region’s most vulnerable residents. Their most recent analysis shows that there are 19 counties in Louisiana with a customer unavailability rate of 50% or more, based on data from Entergy. This area contains 212 federally licensed health center sites serving 215,208 patients. Among them, nearly 17,000 patients are over 65, 41,225 are uninsured and about 20,000 are diabetics.

About 10% of the state’s population, or 448,000 people, rely on Federal Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs, about 1% more than the national average. The majority of those patients and health centers are concentrated around New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which are facing widespread power outages.

Nationally, federally qualified health centers serve approximately 30 million Americans nationwide and attend to anyone seeking treatment, regardless of ability to pay. 90% of patients are at or below 200% of the federal poverty guideline.

Direct Relief provided medical support to free and charitable health centers and clinics responding to the impacts of Hurricane Ida, even as they experienced outages and were working to support their patient populations.

Speaking to The New York Times, Direct Relief vice president of research and analysis Andrew Schroeder said communities in the Gulf region tend to prefer solar-powered backup generators. . A potential complicating factor is when fuel is scarce or depleted.

“Each passing day becomes a growing challenge,” he said. “The first 24 hours you might not have too many problems. After a week, and we’ve seen this with a lot of other places, you have dialysis problems and you have dialysis problems. generation and ventilation.

Patient care, with or without electricity

A local health center, Odyssey House Louisiana, is an example of how health centers meet the specific needs of their respective communities.

In addition to primary care, the organization also serves as a drug treatment center. Based in New Orleans, it is dealing with a power outage but has managed to keep its residential treatment centers operational. They also continue to accept admissions for short-term drug treatment, but the center has been forced to close its primary care operations due to supply constraints.

In an ongoing attempt to meet the most urgent needs of partners like Odyssey House Louisiana, Direct Relief is preparing to deploy backup power options, including solar-powered refrigerators for temperature-sensitive therapies like insulin and vaccines.

Ann Tucker, director of development for Odyssey House Louisiana, said power was restored this morning to one of their three facilities. The other two work with generators.

“It’s hot, it’s New Orleans, and the generator isn’t running the air conditioning on full blast, but we’re doing our best, but we’re not able to provide full comfort for our patients and our staff because the heat index is over 100 these days, and the humidity is setting in,” Tucker said.Odyssey House Louisiana had about 200 patients who stayed with them during the storm.

Lack of energy also halted their drug rehabilitation program, which Tucker said is the entry point for most of their patients into drug treatment. “It’s a big gap in coverage,” she said.

Odyssey House Louisiana staff keep generators running by traveling to Mississippi to purchase propane, and also picking up other essentials like ice and food. Tucker credited Odyssey House Louisiana staff with keeping operations going.

Tucker said the organization only receives funding for the services it provides, not infrastructure, and any additional funds go directly to patient care, which has prevented them from seeking funding sources. alternative energy in the past.

“Once the power kicks in, we’re really ready to go. The first thing is to get health clinics back online, and we would also continue admissions,” she said. “Power is really the most critical thing.”

Update of data on population movements

CrisisReady also analyzes local population movements and demographic data with the aim of maintaining up-to-date situational awareness for public officials, responders and NGOs. The most recent data suggests parts of New Orleans may have seen as many as 75% of its residents leave — and stay away. At least a dozen districts saw declines of at least 50% from pre-storm baseline numbers.

This analysis is based on data from Facebook’s Data For Good program, which shares anonymized information from Facebook app users who have opted into the program. CrisisReady has also compiled poverty rates in each region as well as figures from the 2018 American Community Survey.

The analyzes were shared with the City of New Orleans and the US Department of Health and Human Services, through its Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and Direct Relief. Understanding where people really are can help managers and responders optimize their resources and distribute aid where it is most needed.

Direct Relief responded to Hurricane Ida before, during and after the impact of the storm. Medical aid dispatched includes prescription drugs like insulin, emergency medical backpacks for triage care, personal care products for evacuees, PPE, nutritional products and food options relief for healthcare facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and other states experiencing the effects of Ida.

Maria J. Book