GHA Statement

The Georgia Hospital Association is closely monitoring Hurricane Florence. Millions of people have been evacuated from coastal states and some are heading to Georgia. GHA is working with hospitals, state and federal agencies to assist in any way possible. GHA keeps everyone in our thoughts and prayers during this potentially devastating storm.


Standing Ready for Hurricane Florence

By GHA President Earl Rogers
Hurricane Florence is predicted to hit our neighbors to the east with extreme force. Our hospitals stand ready to assist, whether by caring for potentially evacuated patients or providing much-needed resources. Just last year, we rose to the occasion when thousands of Floridians needed our help during Hurricane Irma.

September is National Preparedness Month and the theme is, "Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How." GHA's emergency preparedness team has been working since last Fall to be ready for the next disaster.

Preparing involves careful collaboration and communication with state and federal agencies. That is why we constantly strategize to make sure that when an event like a hurricane arises, the necessary steps are in place to make sure all hospitals have what they need and that, ultimately, each patient is treated with the best possible care.

I sincerely hope and pray for all of those who may be affected by Hurricane Florence. But, if the storm causes havoc, we take comfort in knowing GHA and Georgia will be there to lend a helping hand.


Georgia Governor Declares State of Emergency

Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for all of Georgia on Wednesday as the latest projections showed Hurricane Florence taking a potential left turn toward the northern half of the state. 

The governor’s order came shortly after the latest National Hurricane Center update showed the storm edging toward the Carolinas -- and then possibly churning over Georgia as it loses energy.  

Earlier Wednesday, President Donald Trump warned Georgians to “be ready, be prepared” for the Category 4 storm as it neared the coast.

It’s too early to tell what course Florence will take, but state officials are particularly concerned about the high winds and torrential rain that could soak Georgia even if Florence makes landfall further up the coast.

The storm, which forecasters have warned could be catastrophic, is expected to make landfall as early as Thursday evening. More than 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under evacuation orders, and officials warn of devastating flooding, lashing rains and winds and sweeping storm surges.

While other coastal states declared states of emergency earlier this week, Deal’s office followed suit after updated forecasts showed Florence’s path changing.

In his executive order, he told state officials to preposition emergency equipment and to prepare for the fallout. 

“The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Florence,” said Deal, who added that he encourages residents "to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas.”


Out-of-State Evacuees Information

Georgia State Parks, including campsites and cottages, are open to evacuees. Georgia State Parks will not be turning away any visitors seeking assistance. 
  • All cabins will be allowed to accommodate domestic pets. Pet fees will be waived during this weather event. 
  • Parks that currently have overnight equestrian facilities will allow visitors traveling with horses to use portable corrals and high lines (with tree saver straps).  AH Stephens State Park will utilize the event field as an overflow for their equestrian campground.
  • For information about parks, updates and how to rent facilities please go to https://gastateparks.org/alerts.

The Atlanta Motor Speedway camping facilities are open for evacuees seeking refuge from Hurricane Florence. Campgrounds utilized will be Legends for dry camping and Premium (main entrance road) for hook-ups.

(Information updated from Georgia Emergency Management Agency)


Georgia Traffic Information

Call 511 or visit www.511ga.org for free real-time travel information on road conditions and closures.

Ready Georgia

Being ready for emergencies is extremely important. Having a plan in place is paramount. For more information on how to be prepared, visit the Ready Georgia website.


Dialysis Patient Placement

End Stage Renal Disease Network

Main Phone: 919-463-4500

Toll-Free Patient Line: (800) 524-7139

Shannon Wright, Executive Director Cell Phone: (516) 697-4330

Anna Bennett, Education Coordinator Cell Phone: (917) 826-7495

In addition to contacting the ESRD Network for help with placing dialysis patients, there are three large dialysis corporations (LDOs) that treat the majority of dialysis patients (Davita, Fresinius and DCI).  If you have patients who are unable to get in contact with their dialysis units or if they need dialysis and they know the NAME of the corporation that runs their dialysis clinic, you can also contact the dialysis corporation hotline:

DaVita Emergency Hotline: 1-800-400-8331
DCI Emergency Hotline: 1-866-424-1990
Fresenius Emergency Hotline: 1-800-626-1297
U.S. Renal Care: 1-866-671-8772
American Renal Associates: 1-888-880-6867

State's Health Care Response to Disasters

Georgia’s healthcare response to disasters is based on our Healthcare Coalition model. Fourteen regional healthcare coalitions, led by a Coalition Coordinator and a Coalition Facilitator, work with healthcare and community partners to prepare for and respond to disasters and emergencies.  Coalition members consists of Emergency Preparedness coordinators from healthcare and community agencies throughout Georgia.

Latest Weather Updates

Some news outlets call this the 'Storm of a Lifetime.' Various forescasts indicate this could be the worst storm to hit the Atlantic Coast in years. Regardless of the varying reports, GHA recommends everyone keep updated regularly as the forecast seems to change by the minute. As of Wednesday morning,  Hurricane Florence forecasted as Category 2 storm with the potential to stall over land in the Carolinas.

Hurricane Categories from the National Hurricane Center

5: 157 mph or higher

4: 130-156 mph

3: 11-129 mph

2: 96-110 mph

1: 74-95 mph


OCR Issues Guidance

 

As Hurricane Florence makes landfall, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and its federal partners remain in close coordination to help ensure that emergency officials effectively address the needs of at-risk populations as part of disaster response.  To this end, emergency responders and officials should consider adopting, as circumstances and resources allow, the following practices to help make sure all segments of the community are served:

  • Employing qualified interpreter services to assist individuals with limited English proficiency and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing during evacuation, response, and recovery activities
  • Making emergency messaging available in languages prevalent in the affected area(s) and in multiple formats, such as audio, large print, and captioning and ensuring that websites providing disaster-related information are accessible;
  • Making use of multiple outlets and resources for messaging to reach individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, and members of diverse faith communities;
  • Considering the needs of individuals with mobility impairments and individuals with assistive devices or durable medical equipment in providing transportation for evacuation;
  • Identifying and publicizing accessible sheltering facilities that include accessible features, such as bathing, toileting, eating facilities, and bedding;
  • Avoiding separating people from their sources of support, such as service animals, durable medical equipment, caregivers, medication, and supplies; and
  • Stocking shelters with items that will help people to maintain independence, such as hearing aid batteries, canes, and walkers.

Being mindful of all segments of the community and taking reasonable steps to provide an equal opportunity to benefit from emergency response efforts will help ensure that the disaster management in all areas affected by Hurricane Florence is successful.

For more information regarding how Federal civil rights laws apply in an emergency, visit OCR’s Civil Rights Emergency Preparedness page.

For information about emergency requirements for long-term care facilities, visit the CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule page.

For information regarding Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other civil rights authorities that HHS OCR enforces, visit the Laws and Regulations Enforced by OCR civil rights page.


HHS Secretary Declares Health Emergencies

Following the lead of President Trump’s emergency declarations for North Carolina and South Carolina, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar has declared  public health emergencies   in the two states as Hurricane Florence continues its track toward the eastern seaboard. The declarations give HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting  emergency health needs .

Qualivis Helping Hospitals with Rapid Response Nurses

Georgia Hospital Health Services, Inc. (GHHS), a wholly-owned subsidiary of GHA is pleased to announce that vendor partner Qualivis is helping hospitals prepare. Rapid response agencies are ready to deploy and mobilize teams to help you and your team through the hurricane while maintaining the highest quality of patient care. The Qualivis network offers easy access to a nationwide network of staffing agencies and rapid response agencies to simplify and speed the search process, so that you can focus on providing patient care. Rapid response travel nurse staffing is unique to the travel nurse industry, providing facilities with nurses immediately and offering flexible assignment lengths. Our rapid response agencies can provide nurses available to help for as long — or as little — as you need them. Our team is dedicated to you 24/7, let us know how we can help!

If you are already a part of the Qualivis network, please contact your Georgia Qualivis account specialist Janice Berger or Mallory Garrett at GHA for more information. 


Georgia Hotel/Motel Availability

Callers with questions concerning hotel/motel availability in Georgia can call: 1-800-VISIT-GA (1-800-847-4842) or visit www.exploregeorgia.org.


Pet Information

Pet friendly sheltering is available at Georgia State Parks, where "dry camping" will be available free of charge
  • Evacuees are encouraged to contact park offices directly for assistance
  • A map of all Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites Division - Georgia DNR is available at https://gastateparks.org/Map

LiveHealth Online

Residents of South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia affected by hurricane Florence can visit with a board-certified doctor or licensed therapist for free using LiveHealth Online. All you have to do is login to your LiveHealth Online account and select Help for Florence Medical to visit with a doctor or Help for Florence Psychology to talk with a therapist at no cost to you. Doctors are available on demand 24/7 to assess your condition and send a prescription to the pharmacy you select if medically necessary. If you're feeling anxious, stressed or having a tough time coping, therapists are available by appointment for 45-minute counseling sessions.

Free video visits through Help for Florence Medical and Psychology will be available until December 12, 2018.

CMS Offers Broad Support

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Thursday announced efforts underway to support North Carolina and South Carolina in response to Hurricane Florence. CMS is working to ensure hospitals and other facilities can continue operations and provide access to care despite the effects of Hurricane Florence. CMS has waived certain Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements; created special enrollment opportunities for individuals to access healthcare immediately; and taken steps to ensure dialysis patients obtain critical life-saving services.

“At the direction of President Trump, CMS is doing everything within its power to provide assistance and relief to those affected by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and South Carolina,” said Seema Verma, CMS Administrator. “We are coordinating with federal and local officials to make sure that our beneficiaries, many of whom are some of America’s most vulnerable citizens, have access to the healthcare they need.”

Key administrative actions CMS has taken in response to the PHEs declared in North Carolina and South Carolina:

  •  Waivers for Hospitals and other Healthcare Facilities: CMS has temporarily waived or modified certain Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP requirements. CMS issued a number of blanket waivers, listed on the website below, and the CMS Regional Offices have granted other provider-specific requests for specific types of hospitals and other facilities in North Carolina and South Carolina. These waivers work to provide continued access to care for beneficiaries. For more information on the waivers CMS granted, visit: www.cms.gov/emergency.
  • Special Enrollment Opportunities for Hurricane Victims:  CMS has made available special enrollment periods for all Medicare beneficiaries and certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Federal Health Insurance Exchange. This gives people impacted by the hurricane the opportunity to change their Medicare health and prescription drug plans and gain access to health coverage on the Exchange immediately if eligible for the special enrollment period. For more information on these special enrollment periods, visit:
        - https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Regulations-and-Guidance/Downloads/8-9-natural-disaster-SEP.pdf
        - https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/Emergency/EPRO/Past-Emergencies/Hurricanes-and-tropical-storms.html.

  • Disaster Preparedness Toolkit for State Medicaid Agencies: CMS developed an inventory of Medicaid and CHIP flexibilities and authorities available to states in the event of a disaster. For more information and to access the toolkit, visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/state-resource-center/disaster-response-toolkit/index.html.

  • Dialysis Care:  CMS is helping patients obtain access to critical life-saving services. The Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) program has been activated ahead of the storm and is working with the End Stage Renal Disease Network of the South Atlantic, ESRD NW 6, to assess the status of dialysis facilities in the potentially impacted areas related to generators, alternate water supplies, education and materials for patients, and more. They are also assisting patients who have evacuated ahead of the storm to receive dialysis services in the location to which they are evacuating. Patients have been educated to have an emergency supply kit on hand including important personal, medical, and insurance information; contact information for their facility, the ESRD NW hotline number, and contact information of those with whom they may stay or for out-of-state contacts in a water proof bag. They have also been instructed to have on hand supplies to follow a three-day emergency diet. The ESRD NW toll-free hotline is 800-524-7139 and the KCER hotline is 866-901-3773. Additional information is available on the KCER website www.kcercoalition.com

  • Medical equipment and supplies replacements: CMS temporarily suspended certain requirements necessary for Medicare beneficiaries who have lost or realized damage to their durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies as a result of the hurricane. This will help to make sure that beneficiaries can continue to access the needed medical equipment and supplies they rely on each day. Medicare beneficiaries can contact 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for assistance.

  • Suspension of Enforcement Activities: CMS will suspend current survey and enforcement activities for healthcare facilities in North Carolina and South Carolina, but will continue to investigate allegations of immediate threat to patient health and safety.

  • Ensuring Access to Care in Medicare Advantage and Part D.  During a public health emergency, Medicare Advantage Organizations and Part D Plan sponsors must take steps to maintain access to covered benefits for beneficiaries in affected areas. These steps include allowing Part A/B and supplemental Part C plan benefits to be furnished at specified non-contracted facilities and waiving, in full, requirements for gatekeeper referrals where applicable.

Help for BlueCross Members

If BlueCross BlueShield members are affected and live in Georgia, here's what you should know:

  • Members on a BCBSGa prescription drug plan can get up to a 30-day emergency refill of their maintenance medications at any pharmacy now. This also applies to emergency personnel who have been activated by their state and local agency but who do not reside in the impacted county.
  • Members who use a mail-order pharmacy can update address information by calling Member Services.
Relaxed guidelines are effective from September 12, 2018 through October 12, 2018. They apply to members with BCBSGa group health plans, individual and family plans. They do not apply to Federal Employees Health Benefits Program members or to members with Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans. These programs have specific guidelines.

Members who need additional support should call the Member Services number on their ID card or select Customer Support on the BlueCross website.