SEPT. 12, 2005 | From providing medical care to hurricane evacuees in shelters and nursing homes around central Arkansas to providing preemie-sized bottles and diapers for an infant at a DeWitt shelter, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) employees are continuing to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina.
When workers at a shelter for hurricane evacuees in the southeast Arkansas town needed supplies for the prematurely-born infant, they turned to the UAMS Disaster Relief Fund. Donations from UAMS employees have also allowed shipments of medications for diabetes and other conditions as well as household supplies and personal hygiene items to go to shelters in Mississippi.
Thousands of evacuees from hurricane-affected areas of Louisiana and Mississippi are now in Arkansas, bringing with them medical and other needs that must be addressed. They are being cared for in shelters and other facilities across the state and UAMS physicians, nurses and other health care professionals are volunteering their time to provide care.
About $16,000 has been added to the UAMS Disaster Relief Fund by direct employee contributions. The fund was established Sept. 2 by Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D., with a $9,000 donation on behalf of employees. The money is being used to provide for those in need after the hurricane and subsequent flooding, which forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
The fund is being administered by UAMS’ Social Work Department and used to buy prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, food, diapers, baby formula, transportation to and from shelters and other essentials needed by families displaced by the hurricane.
“UAMS employees are continuing to prove they are among the most caring people anywhere in the world,” Wilson said. “Through their support and service to those in need now, they are demonstrating the same dedication they exhibit on a daily basis in our classes, clinics, research labs and offices.”
More than 70 people from the hurricane-impacted region have been treated at UAMS. Patient needs have ranged from prescription medications to cancer treatments and kidney dialysis to high-risk pregnancies. The UAMS Reynolds Institute on Aging reported that many evacuees are being treated on an outpatient basis while Department of Geriatrics physicians have begun making medical rounds to visit evacuees now staying in several nursing homes in the area.
UAMS physicians also have assisted the staff at the VA Hospital in treating patients taken there.
At the same time, teams of UAMS physicians have made regular visits to some of the evacuee shelters in central Arkansas. Jeanne Wei, M.D., Ph.D., a professor and executive vice chairman of the Department of Geriatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine, said that UAMS doctors provided care for about 500 evacuees staying at the St. Mark’s Baptist Church shelter.
UAMS mobilized its seven Area Health Education Centers across the state to provide aid to Hurricane Katrina evacuees pouring into Arkansas and UAMS. All of the AHECs have seen evacuees in their clinics or during visits to shelters. The Texarkana and Fort Smith AHECs in particular saw huge numbers of evacuees.
In addition to the UAMS Disaster Fund, faculty, staff and students in the UAMS College of Nursing collected $2,218 in two days for a donation to the American Red Cross. The college also collected four truckloads of food, bottled water, toiletries, clothes and toys for local agencies gathering those items for those displaced.
“I am very proud of our faculty and students for their caring and generosity,” said UAMS College of Nursing Dean Linda Hodges, Ed.D., R.N., “Our college is a true community and it is a real honor to be a part of this wonderful group of people.”
Cheryl Schmidt, Ph.D., R.N., a professor in the UAMS College of Nursing who also works with the Red Cross, has spent the last two weekends conducting training for local nurses and physicians who are staffing the evacuee shelters. She said 147 had completed training so they can work in the shelters providing care to evacuees.
“It’s exciting to see this much interest,” Schmidt said. “The shelters need health care provided there 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.”
In between working to make sure health care workers at the shelters had equipment and supplies, Schmidt also visited with some of the evacuees.
“They are so thankful and cannot believe the outpouring of hospitality and care they are receiving,” she said.
Other ways that UAMS has responded to Hurricane Katrina:
• Teams of UAMS physicians – including pediatricians, psychiatrists and internal or family medicine specialists – traveled to evacuee shelters in Hot Springs, Heber Springs and Redfield during the weekend of Sept. 3. There were also UAMS physicians at Little Rock National Airport to greet and assist with the triage of arriving evacuees – including a group of 600 that arrived at one time on Sunday, Sept. 4.
• The UAMS Department of Psychiatry operated a clinic the weekend of Sept. 3 for any affected by the hurricane and were making its staff available as needed for any who may be distressed, depressed or in need of help following the storm.
• UAMS College of Nursing faculty and staff have signed up to deliver meals to a UAMS faculty member who has 11 family members in her home from the damaged area.
• Several students who were attending schools in the hurricane-affected region that are now closed have enrolled at UAMS. This includes about eight students in the College of Pharmacy..
• Five orthopaedics medical residents from Tulane University are at UAMS for two months after their program was shutdown along with the New Orleans university’s campus.
• A student who was enrolled in a sonography program in Mobile, Ala., is now enrolled in the diagnostic medical sonography program in the UAMS College of Health Related Professions to conduct her clinical rotations which were originally scheduled for clinics in the hurricane-damaged area of Mississippi.
• Several children who were displaced by the hurricane have been enrolled in the UAMS Head Start pre-school program at locations in central Arkansas.