Doug Read, PharmD, is an H-E-B pharmacist based in San Antonio. Witnessing Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in Victoria, TX, and Rockport, TX, he said, was “life changing. Eye opening.” The route from Victoria to Rockport “looked like a bomb had gone off in each little home along the way.” Power lines were down. Livestock lay on the roads.
As director of pharmacy compliance and regulatory affairs for H-E-B, Read said part of his responsibility is to coordinate with the emergency operations team that mobilizes the company’s disaster relief units, including the mobile pharmacy unit. This means getting ready to deploy each disaster relief unit, setting up inventory to take with them, getting licensing in place, and recruiting the employees needed to help.
H-E-B has more than 380 stores in Texas and Mexico, approximately 270 of which have pharmacies. The H-E-B disaster relief units served more than 40,000 hot meals and offered prescription services to hundreds of hurricane victims. Its pharmacists heard stories about people who’d stayed behind, hunkered down for the storm. People who were without their critical medications for several days because no place was open. “Several people were in tears,” Read said.
The people he saw “were so grateful we were providing the service.”
Today, as the Houston area grapples with the aftermath of Harvey’s floods, people in the Caribbean and Florida are reeling from Hurricane Irma as what is now a tropical storm churns further north into the continental United States.
For pharmacists in the path of Irma, the basic sentiment is: “Take care of your patients. Help out,” Read said immediately.
In times of crisis, states and their boards of pharmacies “typically relax the rules a little bit” to take care of the patient—for example, allowing pharmacists to use their judgment in providing a 30-day supply on refill medications, he added.
The convoy Read was in traveled 120 miles from San Antonio to hard-hit Victoria, near the Texas coast, which was directly in the path of the eye wall. H-E-B’s two stores there were down without power or water, and a lot of employees had evacuated the area. So the first order of business was generator support and water tanker support. “With electricity and water, you can run a store,” Read said.
Out in the parking lot, Read and staff—along with several H-E-B employees (“or partners, as we like to call them”) from the store—ran the mobile pharmacy to service the needs of patients. When the store reopened the next day, H-E-B provided the community with ice, water, and so on, and served meals out of a mobile kitchen—more than 8,000 meals in 2 days.
With that store up and running, the convoy traveled to Rockport, which took a direct hit right there on the Texas coast. The community was completely devastated.
After 4 days straight, Read had relief come in. The convoy traveled to Houston, where H-E-B ran a pharmacy out of NRG Stadium, where the shelters were set up. From there, the convoy went to Beaumont, TX.
“We want to get Texans back on their feet,” Read said.
As he spoke, every one of H-E-B’s stores was open with the exception of three. Of those three, one had a pharmacy. They will be rebuilt.
For more coverage, please visit www.pharmacytoday.org for the November 2017 issue of Pharmacy Today.