Relief is on the way for some Texas physicians uprooted from their medical practice by Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Medical Association (TMA) Disaster Relief Program committee distributed nearly $350,000 to the first 28 medical practices to apply for assistance to rebuild. Physicians whose Harvey-damaged medical practice is located in a federally declared disaster area have been applying for assistance for damage not covered by insurance or other means, to speed the rebuilding of their doctor offices. The 28 medical practices employ 107 physicians and 936 staff members.
“We want to help physicians throughout the disaster area recover and rebuild as soon as possible, because their communities’ patients are struggling, their staffs are hurting, and they are straining to get their practices up and running again,” said TMA President Carlos J. Cardenas, MD. “This assistance will help these practices return to doing what they do best: protecting the health and well-being of their patients and their communities.”
The TMA Disaster Relief Program’s oversight committee last week began distributing funds to the first physicians to apply for help after losing their medical practice to the hurricane.
For many doctors’ offices throughout southeast Texas, damage is terrific. Many lost everything but the outer shells of the buildings themselves — from medical equipment to vaccines, office furniture and computers.
TMA is now very near its goal of raising $1 million or more; the total tally in donations and pledges stands at $997,907.
“Although the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey was substantial, the generosity physicians showed their affected colleagues was even more powerful,” said Dr. Cardenas.
The need is enormous: A recent TMA survey finds nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of physicians in Texas’ official disaster-area counties were forced to close their practice temporarily, while one-third (35 percent) had to reduce their hours or services. That equates to tens of thousands of patients left without their doctor to care for their injuries or illnesses during a time when many also face the upheaval of destruction of their homes or places of work.
Dr. Cardenas assembled a blue-ribbon panel of TMA Family members including five past TMA presidents, the chair and a member of The Physicians Benevolent Fund, and physicians in the disaster areas to oversee the TMA Disaster Relief Program. Don R. Read, MD, TMA immediate past president, is the committee chair.
TMA continues to accept contributions to the program in hopes of helping each physician rebuild to care for patients again.
TMA also is conducting independent research using its own member data to compare with federal storm-damage data and identify doctors whose practices and homes were harmed by the massive storm, but who have yet to contact the medical society for assistance. “So many of the doctors might be so entrenched in recovery that they’re unaware of the TMA Disaster Relief Program, so we want to find them in hopes we can help,” Dr. Cardenas said.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 50,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. The TMA Foundation raises funds to support the public health and science priority initiatives of TMA and the Family of Medicine.