DMEPOS Warriors: NuCara Home Medical: Weathering the Storm of 2020

Published in Member Communities on September 01, 2020

A few weeks ago, devastating storms hit Iowa and Illinois and caused widespread destruction, power outages, loss of internet and phone services, gas shortages and more. But those challenges were just the beginning of what was to be figured out and fixes for many VGM & Associates members who were impacted by the Derecho 2020. 

A recurring theme between our members is an all-hands-on-deck mentality to take care of their patients and others, and we are so grateful and proud of each and every member not only during challenging times, but for what you do each and every day!

Here is a story from our member, NuCara Home Medical!

Weathering the Storm of 2020

Provided by Autumn Kline and Michelle Willenborg of NuCara Home Medical 

As if the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t bad enough for our staff and patients, on Monday, August 10th mother nature unleashed her own wrath on Iowa.   

As an Iowa-based company, we have seen the best and worst of what weather can surprise us with, and Derecho was no different. In Des Moines, the storm hit us on Monday around 11 a.m. while we were at work. This storm was hurricane-strength with windspeeds of up to 130 mph, causing billions of dollars in damage. After the winds subsided and the rain vanished, we began to understand what kind of impact this had on our patients and their well-being.  

All hands-on deck quickly became our motto because we knew if we didn’t have power, neither did our oxygen, NIV, CPAP, and BIPAP patients. Our Des Moines, Urbandale, Newton, and Marshalltown locations were all affected with significant power outages and some damage. Staff at our local branches implemented their emergency response procedures, and with all our employees accounted for we began the process of getting in contact with our most vulnerable patients.  

We went through between 500-1,000 oxygen tanks during this time. Our Des Moines location received 100 tanks from Chariton, IA; 60 tanks from Oskaloosa, IA; 40 tanks from Nevada, IA. Our Marshalltown location received 60 tanks from Oskaloosa and Ottumwa, IA. Our Newton location received 100 tanks from Oskaloosa and Ottumwa, as well. Our supplier, Airgas, came later in the week to the branches impacted to deliver more tanks so we could keep up. Our Newton location had worked with the Red Cross so that a couple patients could gain access to a safe place to stay that had power for their oxygen concentrator. 

With how widespread the storm was, our staff all had to quickly work as a team and shift from their normal daily duties. Managers became drivers to pick up additional oxygen from locations that weren’t affected. Billing staff became part of the frontline to answer cell phones to work with our triage team. We all worked hard to keep our patients out of the emergency rooms. Our on-call team worked most of the night that Monday making emergency oxygen deliveries.   

Many of our employees had extensive damage, including trees through their roofs and significant vehicle damage. Even with personal struggles at home, they showed up to ensure our patients were taken care of.   

Marshalltown isn’t foreign to weather emergencies. In 2018, they had a tornado come through downtown where it suffered extensive damage. Our Branch Manager, Peg Moler, stated, “The tornado was bad, but as widespread as Derecho was, we had so many more patients that were impacted.” The Marshalltown branch faced the longest amount of time without power, internet, and phones. They didn’t have power for a full week.  

Today, we are still dealing with picking up and exchanging empty backup tanks from our patients. The Marshalltown area still has residents without power, so we are still providing backup systems in this area. Our customer service team is still playing fax catch-up with our normal referrals outside of oxygen.   

This storm was nothing like we have ever experienced before, as four of our twelve home medical locations were without power, phones, and internet for up to a week. Our CEO, Terry Flatt, said it best in a memo to our staff: “Everyone kept things running as smoothly as possible. We hope to never experience a week like we had ever again.” A thank you goes out to our staff, referral sources, and patients for being patient as we worked through the weather emergency.  


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