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Doctors fly in, some working 72 hours straight, to help with Harvey relief

TeamHealth provides medical personnel to Houston area

HOUSTON – TeamHealth is a national staffing firm for hospitals, meaning it helps employ doctors and other medical practitioners across the country.

That gives the firm the ability to put emergency room personnel on a plane within 24 hours of a disaster striking.

“(I) looked at my wife and said, ‘I gotta go,’” Dr. Brian Williams said.

It was Tuesday when Williams, a doctor of emergency medicine, left his Oklahoma home and headed to Texas.

“I just felt the need to come,” he said. “I knew in Oklahoma, we’ve had a few national disasters ourselves, and so I just, there wasn’t much I could do. But I knew I could come down and see patients.”

It was much-needed.

“Due to the flooding, a lot of our providers weren’t able to get into the hospital,” said Dr. Sandeep Duggal, the facility medical director at Memorial Hermann - Southeast. “Our administrative team, our CEO and CNO, they came in by airboat and some of our providers we had to go out and get via boat.”

Added Williams, “We were the first non-military plane to land here.”

From there, Williams and 10 other doctors made their way to the medical center, onto helicopters to area hospitals and then immediately to work.

"One of the biggest needs were folks that needed hemodialysis,” Williams said. “So they have kidney failure and get usually dialysis treatment three days a week. Well, because of the flooding, all the dialysis units were shut down.”

But patients weren't the only ones to benefit.

“I was there 72 hours straight and a bunch of my doctors were with me, and we were -- the fatigue was there,” Duggal said.

Said Williams, “Just to see a fresh face and we, you know, we’re not the cavalry, but (it was nice for) sort of some relief (to come) in.”

“(There was an) emotional aspect, the physical aspect, the medical aspect -- so getting these relief teams was amazing,” Duggal said.

After three long days, the group is heading home with a promise.

“Should the need arise, we’re going to be happy to pay this back,” Duggal said. “Absolutely.”

Though Williams is back in Oklahoma by now, another group of 26 medical personnel from TeamHealth is coming in Friday to help support Houston hospitals through the weekend.