Every day totes of medications are delivered to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s pharmacy. But this week the hospital, one of the nation’s largest, placed its biggest medication order ever, as Hurricane Irma barreled toward the Miami area.
“Because of this storm’s potential devastation this is definitely [an order] much larger than what we usually plan for a storm,” said Venessa Goodnow, director of pharmacy services at Jackson, a 1,550-bed safety-net hospital in Miami.
Of the nearly 600 totes delivered, Goodnow said Jackson’s priority were pain medications, antibiotics, and blood pressure medication. In addition, she said, the hospital also stocked up on “critical life-sustaining medications” for patients with hemophilia or who are need of a transplant.
In a part of Florida prone to natural disaster, health systems every year set aside money in anticipation of storms, and conduct drills in preparation for hurricane winds. At Baptist Hospital, located 12 miles further southwest, chief operating officer Wayne Brackin said administrators ordered enough food “to become self-sustained for a couple of weeks.” Further north, Orlando Health CEO David Strong this afternoon told CNBC that one of his top priorities has been stocking up on medical supplies at his system’s hospitals.
Goodnow said these advance pharmacy orders — a cost she figured runs at least several million dollars — will provide more than two weeks’ worth of medication for the hospital to have on hand ahead of Irma’s anticipated landfall in south Florida early Sunday morning. The orders were placed Monday in order to give wholesalers enough time to deliver shipments. The last came ones in on Friday, she said.
During past storms, Jackson’s pharmacy has carried no more than an extra couple days’ worth of medications. But Goodnow said Irma’s size and strength, believed to more powerful than Hurricane Andrew in 1992, made the hospital consider stocking up more medication than ever before.
In addition to providing drugs to inpatients at the facility, Jackson’s stockpile will likely be called upon to provide medications for evacuees in the wake of the storm. Florida state law requires insurers to approve payment to pharmacies during a state of emergency, which means drugs can sometimes fly off the shelves. Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the entire state this past Monday. Already, Jackson has filled “about 30 to 40 percent more prescriptions than usual,” Goodnow said.
To Goodnow, constant drilling for larger storms, even ones potentially bigger than Irma, make her feel confident that the hospital will be able to serve Miami residents no matter how bad Irma lashes her city.
“We do not know what the impact to the community will be,” she said. “It has the potential to be a larger storm than Andrew and cause more devastation. We’re now prepared for anything that may occur.”