VA, Optum coordinate as hurricanes batter Louisiana

Effective crisis management planning key to success


Hurricane Zeta, the fifth storm to make landfall in Louisiana this year, left millions without power. The Category 2 storm hit as the Gulf Coast was still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

When disasters like this strike, Veterans can be assured that VA and community providers in its network have crisis management plans in place to make sure Veterans have access to medical care.

Hurricane Laura was a category 4 storm that caused 20 deaths and damaged buildings, roads and infrastructure with its 150 mph sustained winds and widespread flooding.

In Louisiana, VA’s Community Care Network’s third-party administrator, Optum, and VA’s Alexandria Health Care System were prepared and ready before the first winds came ashore.

Shortly after Hurricane Laura battered Louisiana on Aug. 27, Optum’s Networking and Community Care Experience Team (CCET) sprang into action to locate community hospitals and providers that were available to see patients.

No break in Veteran care during crisis

The teams made sure enough providers were available so that there was no break in Veteran care during the crisis. If a Veteran needed to go to the ER, resources directed them to an open hospital.

Optum also worked alongside the governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management and the Louisiana Hospital Association to gather information and share it with VA.

This was especially urgent during Hurricane Laura. The Category 4 storm caused 20 deaths and damaged buildings, roads and infrastructure with its 150 mph sustained winds and widespread flooding.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Laura was the strongest storm to make landfall in Louisiana since 1856. Its effects disrupted more than 220,000 lives and caused $9 billion in damages.

Crisis plans quickly implemented

VA staff from the Alexandria VA and regional emergency management teams implemented their crisis management plans to quickly assess the status of the hurricane’s path.

Critical to each operation is information about potential damage to the hospital and community-based outpatient clinics, status on patient admissions, power outages, and availability of clean, running water.

Such effective crisis management helps to ensure there is no disruption of services during hurricane season.

“Optum appreciates VA trusting us as a partner during a time of critical need for Veterans in Louisiana. I am proud of my team, and appreciate the quick action and collaboration of many, including the Louisiana State Hospital Association,” said Ed Weinberg, CEO of OptumServe Community Care Services.

Gabrielle Holak is a program analyst for the VHA Office of Community Care Contract Support.


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