The smell of fresh paint and the hum of power tools filled Dr. Vipulkumar G. Patel’s first-floor clinic in Dickinson, which flooded during Hurricane Harvey.
He is paying for repairs on his leased space at 3828 Hughes Court with a grant from the Texas Medical Association. The association’s Disaster Relief Fund has awarded a total of $424,590 to 37 medical practices in federally designated disaster areas in the state. The practices employ 116 physicians and 967 non-physician staff, the association said.
These practices, such as Patel’s, were extensively damage by water during Harvey and required remodeling, repairs, moving to temporary facilities and replacing equipment.
Harvey made landfall Aug. 25 in Rockport, about 200 miles south of Dickinson, but in the 72 or so hours that followed, it dumped more than 50 inches of rain in some parts of the area, swelling creeks and bayous and flooding about 20,000 homes in Galveston County.
A survey found that nearly two-thirds of physicians in Texas have had to close their practices temporarily after disasters, while a third have had to cut back hours or services, the association said. That left tens of thousands of patients without their doctor to care for their injuries or illnesses, the association said.
Patel, who lives in Friendswood, said he made house calls to his patients in the days after Hurricane Harvey as furniture and medical supplies floated in his Dickinson clinic. The water was about 3 feet deep in his practice.
“We were closed for two weeks,” Patel said.
He estimates the damage inside his clinic at $20,000. And while the owner of the building had flood insurance, Patel did not. The parking lot of the building backs up to the banks of Dickinson Bayou, which overflowed and inundated surrounding homes and businesses. Pieces of plastic, fabric and assorted storm debris are woven around the base of the trees.
Patel’s security camera captured images of pieces of his medical practice floating in the reception area during the flood, he said.
He has moved his office to the second floor of the same building and is seeing patients until repairs are made on his clinic. The elevator in the building is still not working, and the bare concrete floors on the first floor are waiting for new flooring. Patel, an internal medicine physician, has patients who live in Dickinson, Santa Fe and Texas City and about 70 percent of them are diabetic, he said. He would not say how many patients he has.
Many of his patients were displaced after Harvey and some are still living in motels, he said.
“We want to help physicians throughout the disaster area recover and rebuild as soon as possible, because their communities’ patients are struggling, their staffs are hurting, and they are straining to get their practices up and running again,” said Dr. Carlos J. Cardenas, who is president of the association.
“This assistance will help these practices return to doing what they do best, protecting the health and well-being of their patients and their communities.”
Patel’s clinic on the first floor should be back to normal soon.
“We should be done by the end of November,” he said. “The cabinets were just delivered.”