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Pharmacies stuggling to fill presciptions after Hurricane Michael


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LYNN HAVEN — In the 40 years Adams Pharmacy has been open in Lynn Haven, owner and pharmacist David Adams said he has never closed for two weeks or more – until now.

He hopes the store at 922 Ohio Ave. in Lynn Haven can reopen sometime next week. Hurricane Michael’s damage to the roof and air conditioning wiped out the climate control. “I can’t store drugs at my building,” Adams said. “It’s been disastrous.”

But Adams isn’t on vacation. Besides meeting with contractors, he is transferring customers’ prescriptions to other pharmacies and responding to messages.

From pharmacies damaged in the hurricane to doctors who have left town or medical groups without internet or phone service, health care providers in Panama City are struggling to deliver care to people who need it.

“People are looking for any office that’s open, so we got an influx of patients, first people who were totally out of medication,” said Dr. Syed Gilani, a physician at 237 E. Baldwin. “Some were my patients; some were other doctors’ patients. They were desperate about prescriptions,” he said.

Many patients haven’t been able to reach their doctors because the internet and phone lines are still down in many doctors’ offices.

Dr. Liaqat Hayat’s nurse Lisa Petitt put a large cardboard sign on the road near the entrance to the cluster of medical offices where doctors Hayat and Gilani practice to notify passersby the offices are open. Dr. Hayat also distributed fliers to pharmacies and called them to tell them he was accepting patients. Many of his regular patients are not coming in because they were evacuated, so he has been filling their spots with emergency patients.

“If their physician’s office is closed and not practicing, then I will see you. I don’t want to steal someone’s patients,” he said. New patients seeking a prescription refill should bring their prescription bottles with them, Dr. Hayat said. “As long as they have their information – we stress they should bring their bottles so we can write a prescription,” he said.

Because the area has been declared a state of emergency, pharmacies are allowed to refill people’s prescriptions, Adams said, if they are open. Mullins pharmacy in Lynn Haven also is closed due to storm damage, according to a recorded message at its phone number.

CVS Health said its pharmacists were providing prescription refills even when the patient’s doctor was unavailable to authorize it. “Our pharmacists are ready to support impacted patients and help avoid disruption to their medication regimens. Using their professional judgment, as allowed by federal/state law and local emergency declarations, this may include the dispensing of emergency supply or refilling of certain medications if the prescriber cannot be reached,” Amy Lanctot, senior manager, public relations for CVS Health said in an email.

The amount of damage from Hurricane Michael is causing people physical and emotional stress, Dr. Gilani said. “I haven’t seen any patient who has not been affected by the hurricane here in this county,” he said. People are coming to the doctor with stress, anxiety and sleep problems.

Doctors are providing a wider range of care because hospitals and doctors’ offices are closed. “There’s a shortage of space. Physicians are looking for alternative space. Not having hospital open and labs open and phone service is causing a lot of hardship,” Gilani said.

Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart does not have a timeline for the hospital’s re-opening, interim public information officer Christa Davis said Thursday. Information was not available from Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center, which an operator said remained closed Thursday except for the emergency room.


During a visit to the area Wednesday, Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, and a former practicing surgeon, suggested doctors reach out to community organizations to ensure people can find them. “That’s an area where your local and faith-based organizations can be extremely helpful,” he said.

Loans and other financial assistance for health care providers whose offices were closed or damaged by the storm are available through the Small Business Administration and the Small Business Development Center network in Florida, experts said.

Dentists are seeing patients with face injuries from cleaning up tree branches, said Dr. Faris Waheed, a dentist at Baldwin Family Dental. But he also is offering free cleanings and X-rays to people affected by the hurricane. “If anyone doesn’t have a toothbrush, we’ll give it to them,” he said. “Our goal is to rebuild Panama City. People are just helping each other out. That’s helping a lot.”

Dr. Gilani is providing space in his medical office to another doctor, Dr. Jigish Patel, whose office on 15th street was damaged. But Dr. Patel’s relocation was stressful for Margie Kelly, of the Sand Hill area, who said she didn’t know where the new office was. Kelly said she hadn’t been able to reach another of her regular doctors and had only about 10 days of a prescription left. Kelly said the hurricane brought back memories of a tornado she witnessed as a child. She stayed with her daughter during the storm and for several days.

“We didn’t evacuate. The Lord took care of us. We was at our daughter’s house. Her house was built with brick,” Kelly said.

Children, including teenagers, also are vulnerable to stress and trauma from witnessing the destruction, said pediatrian Rubina Azam at Baldwin Pediatrics at 528 W. Baldwin Road.

“Actually, it’s more challenging for the teenage kids, too, because teenagers already are going through a lot of changes in their body and mind, and now they have to deal with this also,” said Azam, who said she has been getting a lot of questions from her own children, ages 13 and 15.

Teens are likely to have questions about what will happen to their home, their belongings or their school. Parents should look for signs their children are having trouble processing the trauma, such as loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, headaches, change in personality or behavior. Those symptoms should be a sign to consult a doctor.

“We have to make sure our kids don’t fall into a deep and serious anxiety disorder because it could be a lifelong thing for them,” Dr. Azam said. She said she plans to attend a conference this weekend on trauma in children after a disaster and hopes to start a free therapy group in a couple of weeks.

If children act out, it could be a sign of emotional distress. “Parents have to be very, very patient with their kids,” Dr. Azam said. “The kid is not doing these things because the kid is disrespectful. The kid is doing these things because they are trying to deal with this trauma they went through.”

Parents also have to take care of themselves so they have the energy to be supportive of their children, she said. “If they are not taking care of themselves, who is going to take care of their children?”

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