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Florida Hospital pharmacy fills extra prescriptions during Irma; others were closed

The outpatient pharmacy filled close to 200 prescriptions Sunday, three times its usual volume.

9/13/2017  |  By Orlando Sentinel

Florida Hospital Orlando's outpatient pharmacy filled three times as many prescriptions during the Hurricane Irma weekend as it does on regular weekends.

The pharmacy turned out to be one of the few, if not the only one, remaining open in Central Florida before and after the hurricane.

"We had a number of patients who thought their local pharmacy was open [on Sunday], and when they found out that it wasn't, they started asking around and eventually found us," said Howard Smith, director of outpatient pharmacy department at Florida Hospital.

The pharmacy, perched beside the gift shop in the lobby of Florida Hospital's Ginsburg Tower in downtown Orlando, ended up filling close to 200 prescriptions Sunday, three times its usual volume.

"We hadn't anticipated that much demand," Smith said.

Florida Hospital officials had decided to keep one outpatient pharmacy open during the hurricane because they knew the facility had generator power and predicted that many other pharmacies would be closed.

By Sunday, Smith had to bring two additional staff on board and extend the pharmacy hours to meet demand.

Patients drove from near and far — Winter Springs, Altamonte and Kissimmee — to get their prescriptions filled. Some came in with their pharmacy bottles to get refills and got a three-day supply of medication to tide them over until their own pharmacy opened.

"We had people who were using our hospital telemedicine services and needed to fill their prescriptions," Smith said. And there were patients who had left an ER and needed their medications.

By Monday, the pharmacy started running low on inventory, so it gave patients partial supply of medications.

"We had somewhat of a similar situation with Matthew, but this is the first time we've had something like this happen in the 10 years I've been here," said Smith.

To Smith, this is yet another lesson in emergency planning for events like hurricanes, and it highlights the role of hospital outpatient pharmacies when most other businesses are closed for safety of their staff.

"This just shows that health systems that have outpatient pharmacies could plan accordingly" for events like hurricanes, said Smith.