Doctors recover from Harvey with help from association

Laura Garcia By Laura Garcia

Dec. 25, 2017 at 9:27 p.m.
Updated Dec. 26, 2017 at 6 a.m.

John Soule

John Soule   Contributed photo for The Victoria Advocate

The day before Hurricane Harvey hurtled toward Victoria, Dr. John Soule closed his small medical practice early.

He thought at most the windows could blow out with the heavy winds.

Instead the roof ripped off in several places causing rain to pour in, flooding the floor with several feet of water.

The water then traveled down the elevator shafts and stairwells flooding all floors of Citizens Professional Building A.

The physician estimates a $45,000 loss because of actual property damages, moving costs, lost income for a three-week period and overtime for employees.

Soule, like many others, did not have personal property insurance.

But he learned recently $15,000 of his expenses will be covered.

Soule's practice is one of eight in Victoria that qualified for a grant through the Texas Medical Association, which raised more than $1 million to help doctors affected by Harvey.

"It's a big help," Soule said at his temporary office on the county hospital's campus.

He said he feels fortunate to share an office with another internal medicine doctor since September in professional building C.

"We're lucky we got this one," he said.

Several doctors in Victoria were displaced because of Harvey, while others were pushed into retirement earlier than they had planned.

Hospital administrators say the doctors who lease space on the top floor of the building should be able to move back in by March.

Still, the disruption leaves Soule's staff with the task of copying more than 3,000 patient charts into new paper charts.

The practice is planning to transition to electronic health records, which includes entering at least seven years of records into the computer.

Nurse practitioner Kathy Custer said when they were allowed back into the building about four days after the storm, she found every surface was covered in inches of mildew and mold.

Artwork painted by patients was ruined as well as belongings that had sentimental value.

Even Soule's framed diplomas were damaged.

"I was able to salvage them," Custer said.

Five computers, a server, two fax machines and two printers were ruined.

All of the office desks, including Soule's favorite one made of mahogany wood, 20 chairs and several file cabinets were destroyed.

Three exam tables were contaminated and require refurbishing, while all medications and medical supplies had to be thrown out.

Soule, who has practiced in Victoria for the past 27 years, said he appreciates the help from the association.

As much as he's scrambling to recover, he said some of his patients are dealing with much worse, including the loss of their homes.

Brent Annear, spokesman with the Texas Medical Association, said the relief program was a solution to help those affected by the storm.

Annear said each displaced physician sees hundreds, even thousands, of patients who all need their doctor.

So far the state medical association has provided 52 practices consisting of 165 physicians and their 1,270 staff members with the fund for a total of $624,890 given in financial assistance.

"We wanted to be able to help the physician practices get up and running again as quickly as possible so their community who relies on them could have that stability," he said.


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