When devastating natural disasters occur, URMC is always quick to respond. That was evident in the weeks following the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, when individuals throughout URMC immediately started planning to fly to the small island nation and offer their expertise to those in need. Perhaps less evident, though, was the response of the team at Passport Health of Upstate New York. Based at the School of Nursing, this group quietly worked to expedite travel for health care providers throughout the community, as well as emergency responders and humanitarian workers.
The six highly-trained professionals who specialize in travel medicine in Rochester and Syracuse began to field calls from doctors, nurses, EMTs and others who needed to get to Haiti as quickly as possible. They responded by providing same-day service with vaccine immunizations and up-to date medical information on the region. The group worked extended hours to service the increasing number of travelers trying to get on emergency flights. To date, they consulted with more than 100 Haiti-bound individuals.
“Our goal was to make sure that the health care providers and rescue workers who were giving their time to serve in a crisis were able to stay healthy and productive to save lives and answer the need,” said Bill Russell, RN, MS, director of Passport Health of Upstate New York. “People came into our offices expecting to get a couple of shots and a prescription. But they walked out with a very comprehensive understanding of their health risks and most left feeling as though they have gotten more out of the appointment than they ever expected.”
To accomplish that, the staff at Passport Health made sure they had the most up-to-date information to share with travelers. They normally pull data from up to 80 resources every 24 hours. But following the Haitian earthquake, they were getting information hourly.
“We get overall safety and security updates as well as disease risk profiles and known outbreaks from a variety of places such as the World Health organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and reports direct from on-the-ground physicians,” said Russell.
This is not the first time that Passport Health has aided travelers needing to leave immediately in response to a natural disaster. “We’ve been called to do this a number of times, including after the tsunami in Thailand and the earthquake in southern China,” said Russell.
In addition to the support provided by Passport Health staff, the School of Nursing helped the initial relief effort by donating personal protective equipment such as insect repellents and travel health supplies to aide the first responders at highest risk of food, water and insect-borne diseases.