A Storm of Compassion

Healthcare Network can make a difference beyond the walls of our health centers.

JAMIE ULMER, CEO of Healthcare Network

by Jaime Ulmer, President and CEO of Healthcare Network

Since 1977, Healthcare Network has fought to eliminate social disparities in Collier County.

This work became more important than ever when the community was faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. As the existing disparities were exacerbated, it was imperative to find innovative ways to reach some of the community’s most vulnerable individuals and families.

Always believing Healthcare Network can make a difference beyond the walls of our health centers, we built upon tried-and true ideas and created a dedicated team of diverse and multilingual individuals to directly reach those most in need – bringing healthcare to the community.

The Healthcare Network Community Outreach Team grew out of the understanding that our community needed immediate help, and it quickly became reality. Two of the biggest barriers to healthcare are transportation and communication, so the team brought all the resources it could – including COVID-19 testing and vaccines – to the most underserved areas in our community, mobilizing a multilingual team with Spanish and Haitian-Creole translators available every step of the way.

Just as this team was gaining headway with its community response and preparing to celebrate Healthcare Network’s 45 years of serving the people of Collier County, Southwest Florida found itself in the eye of Hurricane Ian. With destructive winds, heavy rain, storm surge and flooding, this strong Category 4 hurricane devastated our region.

Immediately after the storm, Healthcare Network’s Community Outreach Team shifted gears and went to work providing food, water and other essential items. They made phone calls and home visits to our most vulnerable patients and provided medical and mental health support and administered free tetanus vaccines to prevent disaster cleanup related infections.

Before our team’s arrival, Healthcare Network patient Margarita had not received any hurricane relief supplies and did not know when help would arrive. She was relieved to see our Community Outreach Team distribute cleaning and baby supplies, clothing, water, food and other essentials to her community, a hard-hit mobile home neighborhood.

She recounted how scary it was to witness the waters from a nearby canal overflow into her home, rising nearly 3 feet. She saw her belongings floating in the water and worried about the safety of her three children.

As the surge water seeped into her home, the family tried to evacuate only to discover their cars were too water damaged to start. Most of her neighbors – about 45 people in all – also lost their cars, furniture and other personal belongings.

In the days and weeks ahead, Healthcare Network is committed to being a part of the restoration process and continuing its mission to provide quality healthcare to everyone in our community.

With the community’s support, our dedicated Community Outreach Team can continue providing essential resources to community members in need like Margarita and her family.

About the Author

Jamie Ulmer is President and CEO of Healthcare Network. In addition to his work at Healthcare Network, Jamie serves on the executive and chair committees for the Florida Association of Community Health Centers and is a member of multiple committees for the National Association of Community Health Centers.

For information, visithealthcareswfl.org.

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