Houston Cancer Centers Weather Tropical Storm Harvey

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Oncology care centers in Tropical Storm Harvey’s path close down locations, provide off-site care and update patients via their websites and social media.

Tropical Storm Harvey caused flooding in the MD Anderson Cancer Center - PHOTO BY The Montgomery Page

Patients who are due for treatment at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center were told to stay home on Monday night, as Tropical Storm Harvey continued to wreak havoc on the streets of Houston.

“MD Anderson will be closed Tuesday, Aug. 29, due to weather and travel conditions in the Houston area. Patients with immediate medical needs should seek care at their local hospitals,” MD Anderson wrote on its Facebook page Monday night.

“A Ride-Out Team is safely caring for patients who are in the hospital on our Texas Medical Center campus. Employees should only report to work if they have coordinated with their supervisors and if travel is safe. High water and road hazards persist throughout the Houston area.”

After the weather crisis is over, the hospital will work to reschedule anyone who missed an appointment. For now, staff members who are at MD Anderson are working hard to provide the best possible care to patients.

“I am going non-stop covering our patients both inpatient and outpatient remotely,” said Debu Tripathy, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Chair, Department of Breast Medical Oncology at MD Anderson, and editor-in-chief of CURE® magazine. “Many people cannot make it into the hospital, and we are working with a skeleton staff and a lot of sick patients.”

While social media posts show that MD Anderson was not immune to the flooding, Karen Lu, M.D., MD Anderson’s senior vice president and chief medical officer issued a statement that said, “All leaks reported yesterday are under control, and patient care has not been impacted.

“We at MD Anderson are focused on our patients as we manage the impact of this storm. I am incredibly proud of our staff for their incredible teamwork. While our work is far from done, all of us in the hospital are working together to ensure our patients and families feel safe and well cared for.”

Texas Oncology, a string of cancer centers across the state, also had to close dozens of their centers on Monday, Tuesday and/or Wednesday.

“Our thoughts are with those affected by Hurricane Harvey,” Texas Oncology wrote in a Facebook post, before identifying the locations that were closed on each day. A list of locations could be found on their website.

Local hospitals and cancer centers are obviously not the only groups hit by the storm. For many parts of eastern Texas, the amount of flooding is being measured in feet — not inches – and the state-wide death toll is at least 14, according to published reports. More than 3,000 people have been rescued in the city of Houston alone. The city is expected to have accumulated up to 50 total inches of rainfall since the storm hit only a few days ago.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared Texas to be in a state of public health emergency on Aug. 26. This means that patients who are insured by Medicaid, Medicare or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) “may be reimbursed for such items and services and exempted from sanctions for such noncompliance, absent any determination of fraud or abuse.” The government will not be as strict for patients in this area for acts that would typically be considered non-compliant, including seeing a doctor or health care provider who is licensed in a different state.