South Florida Hospital News
Friday October 19, 2018

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June 2018 - Volume 14 - Issue 12




When Natural Disaster Strikes, VITAS Healthcare is Prepared

Florida sustains more direct hits from hurricanes than any other state, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. From 1851 to 2017, the Sunshine State’s hurricane tally is 117, compared with 64 for runner-up Texas.

VITAS® Healthcare, the nation’s leading hospice care provider, was founded in Miami and cares for an average of 8,900 patients every day in 11 locations throughout Florida. Not surprisingly, VITAS’ South Florida operations are well-prepared for the Atlantic hurricane season impending from June through November.
Hurricane planning is something that VITAS in South Florida focuses on year-round. Every week during our hospice team meetings, we validate that all patients’ disaster-preparedness plans are up-to-date. It is an ongoing process as we remain focused on meeting the needs of our patients, their families and our staff.
Communication is Key
As a standard practice, all VITAS patients in South Florida are assigned an emergency priority level on admission. Emergency preparedness education is provided to patients, family and staff, and a care plan is developed for each patient.
When the possibility of a South Florida disaster looms, an emergency plan is activated. The core component of this plan is communication. The senior managers of impacted South Florida locations come together to prepare. Continual phone and text communication among the VITAS leaders ensures that all aspects of disaster planning are covered.
A VITAS “disaster commander” is appointed, who directs staff to speak with patients and families, assesses patient needs and makes any necessary changes to emergency preparedness plans. To facilitate communication when the disaster plan has been activated, the disaster commander oversees a detailed patient log, which may include evacuation steps and making sure patients have sufficient supplies to outlast the disaster.
When a South Florida disaster warning is issued, channels of communication are established between local VITAS leadership, senior management and leaders of corporate departments. Throughout the South Florida event, decisions are made based on information from federal and local agencies.
When field staff are unable to safely use roads, VITAS’ highly trained Telecare® staff monitor patients by phone. Additionally, the VITAS digital communications teams update its phone systems and online resources to keep South Florida patients, families and employees informed.
Once the disaster has passed, recovery efforts are quickly implemented. Since VITAS is nationwide, team members across the country have the capability to lend support to its South Florida locations as needed.
At VITAS, we take care of each other
While assuring patient safety, VITAS also checks on its employees. Those who have sustained damage, need supplies or are otherwise impacted by the disaster receive help. Those available for emergency assignments find out where they are most needed. As quickly as possible, VITAS returns to its regular, fully staffed routine.
During Hurricane Irma in 2017, VITAS provided affected staff with monetary assistance for food, gas and other necessary supplies, while co-workers opened their homes, brought hot food and helped in every way possible.
Why choose VITAS for your South Florida patients?
As recently as 2017, when massive hurricanes Harvey and Irma impacted the Sunshine State, VITAS demonstrated its ability to deliver compassionate, high-quality end-of-life care during a most trying natural disaster. VITAS has reliably served the South Florida region for 40 years and remains dedicated to its patients and their families.

Maureen Knips is Vice President of Operations at VITAS Healthcare in Broward County. For more information about hospice care or your end-of-life care options, call VITAS Healthcare at (866) 759-6695 or visit

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