Hurricane Michael arrived and left in a day but the challenges of a recovering region are certainly still there. PanCare and North Florida facilities felt the brunt of Michael in locations up and down the panhandle coast, including communities they serve on the Georgia and Alabama lines. Both members temporarily lost several medical facilities during the first two weeks after landfall. Unfortunately, PanCare’s admin and main dental site in Panama City along with its primary care and dental site in Marianna suffered serious enough damage to knock them out of operation for months to come.

Both overcame issues ranging from lack of electric, water, sewer, excessive debris, damaged/closed main roads, and dusk to dawn curfews just to open services again.  North Florida’s Wewahitchka site was temporarily utilized by the national guard and then suffered a large diesel fuel spill (since cleaned up by the private vendor).

Additional issues include disruption of staff due to widespread damages to their homes and apartments and shutdown of area infrastructure.  For the first week post-storm, there were no operating gas stations, grocery stores, banks, etc. open for miles and of course, basic municipal electric, water, sewer and gas services were gone.  Again, many staff members were dealing with unexpected homelessness and displaced family members.

For the last few weeks, PanCare has rolled out and positioned mobile units at locations in Panama City, Mexico beach, Marianna and several other high-need areas. With the shut-down of hospitals and many doctor offices due to damage, PanCare is one of the few primary care providers available to the stricken communities they serve.

All of these challenges were met with huge efforts by both CHC’s leadership and staff and plentiful assistance from our members and several NGO Aid organizations!

Here is a short list of some of the actions taken to help stand-up medical services:

  • CHC members donating Hurricane Packs and other medical supplies and the use of mobile units for deployment.
  • PanCare staffed and rolled out all its mobile units to needed locations just a few days after storm impact; it consolidated its 15th street administrative site to its diesel generated 11th street site and also continued with primary care at this location.
  • PanCare began arranging for temporary housing for impacted staff, and was able to provide gas to staff through a private vendor from Texas along with gas cards from Direct Relief.
  • Bond CHC loaned its Mobile unit to N. Florida CHC so services in Havana FL could continue until that Health Center was operational.
  • The damaged PanCare sites in PC and Marianna now have field grade Medical tents being placed there by the International Medical Corps allowing them to offer regular services until the main buildings are fixed.
  • FACHC has worked with Direct relief and Americares on several donations of materials, including 3500 hygiene kits, two 15,000 watt portable gas generators, and cash donations to assist members.
  • County Emergency Management provided requested water, portable sinks, security, and portlets at our sites to help make them and mobile units operational.
  • We recently received EM priority service designations by ATT for PanCare’s new wireless hotspots to ensure adequate IP throughput.

There are many other small successes like the ones listed above and there is much more to be accomplished before we reach full recovery. We do need to recognize our helpers!  We sincerely appreciate the volunteer efforts by other members of FACHC, our NGO partners, and State ESF-8 community.  It has allowed the recovery efforts to proceed at a quickening pace while keeping a focus on service to the community and safety and well-being of staff. Thank you again for your efforts!  Other updates will follow.

Thomas J. Knox Jr., MPA
Director Emergency Preparedness &
Education Programs