Florida Providers and Patients Prepare for Biggest Hurricane in U.S. History

Posted on in Disaster Relief

Hurricane Irma is projected to be the biggest hurricane in U.S. history, and Florida is in its path. The storm has already clocked 180 MPH sustained winds and killed at least 19 people.

No matter which coast is hit, Florida providers and patients are forced to prepare for the worst. If Irma makes landfall on the east coast, residents can expect storm surges of 15-20 feet. A west coast assault would mean somewhat lesser storm surges, but extremely forceful winds from the back of the storm.

Texas’ devastation following Hurricane Harvey and the deadly impact Irma has already had on the Caribbean islands have left patients in fear, doing whatever they can to feel safe and secure.

Typically, patients would walk away from supplies that are not covered. In the wake of Irma’s threat, Florida patients have abandoned that mentality, willing to pay cash for HME supplies—even $2,500 portable oxygen concentrators (POCs).

“It’s mayhem here,” says Pat Aydelott, VGM’s regional account manager for Florida. “People are lining up for oxygen and CPAP equipment at provider locations like you typically see them line up for food and water at grocery stores.”

Florida Providers Prepare and Respond to Patients’ Fear

Aydelott has been with Florida providers all day, every day, since the onset of Irma’s threat. What he’s seeing is that a lot of services and products are being provided without assurance that they will be reimbursed, due to competitive bidding.

“The only real issue here is taking care of patients,” said Aydelott.

So far, Florida’s transfill oxygen providers are able to stay ahead of the game, but due to traffic and the sheer number of people needing oxygen, they’re requesting that patients come to them. Additionally, providers are stocking up on distilled water for CPAP machines, because the general public is buying out stores to use as drinking water.

VGM member Naples Oxygen is working around the clock to do what they can to meet oxygen demand. Like other providers, they are enforcing 24-hour supply maximum purchase to help a larger patient population. After that, oxygen users are being directed to Florida’s well-resourced shelters or, worst-case, the hospital.

Do you need help relocating your patients? VGM Freedom Link® wants to help.
Call 844-416-1411

As Florida providers press on, logging long hours and non-stop patient service, it’s been hard to keep employees motivated and focused. They have their own families to evacuate and their own homes to prepare. VGM offers its sincere thank you to those employees and their families for upholding the kind of service HME providers are known for.

Get Help

If you’re a VGM member who needs help providing for your patients, please call the VGM Freedom Link Hotline at 844-416-1411. You can also make specific supply requests here.

Give Help

As Aydelott continues to ask providers what he and the HME community can do to help, the prevailing answer is simply, pray.

Let’s pray and do. Let’s make this an event remembered not only as a devastation but as one of people helping people.

If you can donate equipment, or if you’d like to donate to the American Red Cross on behalf of the VGM membership community, please visit and share the link on social media using #HMEUnited.

Additionally, consider joining the community in purchasing People Helping People t-shirts for everyone in your office and posting group photos to social media with your heartfelt messages and #HMEUnited.