By Dr. Joshua Mali
As I observed the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida on New Orleans over the past weekend, I remembered how our community here in Sarasota, Florida responded to a recent natural disaster: Hurricane Irma. It brought out the best in our team and showed why we are regarded as Healthcare Heroes. Here are three key questions and my responses from an interview at that time:
Question 1: How has the natural disaster affected your team and your operations?
– While Hurricane Irma has been a significant natural disaster for the state of Florida, fortunately, my team and I were well-prepared for the storm and it did not dramatically affect our operations. However, the biggest logistical issue is rescheduling a large number of patients that were affected by the storm and getting them back on track for scheduled treatments such as intravitreal injections. Our staff is working overtime to contact/reschedule patients; this is very critical for patients with conditions like macular degeneration to receive their treatments at their particular individualized intervals in order to maximize treatment efficacy and visual outcomes.
Question 2: What has clinic life been like during the early recovery efforts?
– Clinic life has been essentially restored back to normal in a relatively quick period of time mainly due to our amazing hard-working staff and excellent preparation. While our practice was initially closed for two days (which rarely ever happens except for standard holidays) at the peak of the storm, we opened back up for business very soon after the passing of the storm to help take great care of our patients and provide immediate access to care. So it has been exceptionally busy recently due to the large influx of practice-wide patients that were rescheduled from just the two days lost from the storm.
Question 3: Are there any results of the flooding and damage that you didn’t expect? (ex. Staff pulling together, able to help a local resident, etc.)
– The most impressive and memorable thing for me from this experience with Hurricane Irma is to see how powerful the unity of humanity is when facing natural disasters and tragedies. It has been said that we “are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch”. 1 Truly, it is so inspiring to see all the staff chipping in and helping each other through this difficult time; the true definition of teamwork. For example, we made sure to purchase lunch during the clinic for the entire office in order to ensure that everyone has a warm meal as some still do not have electric power restored to their homes. In addition, we have employees sharing their homes with co-workers whose homes have either been damaged from the storm or that still do not have electricity. While Hurricane Irma was devastating to our community, it does remind us that we are one big family and enhances our resolve and spirit to rebuild and become stronger than ever.
- Author: Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’í Reference Library. Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. Pages 287-289. http://reference.bahai.org
Joshua Mali, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist and award-winning vitreoretinal surgeon at The Eye Associates, a private multi-specialty ophthalmology practice in Sarasota, Florida. He is the Retina Medical Director of the Macular Degeneration Association (MDA). He is also the Founder & CEO of Mali Enterprises (www.malienterprises.org).