Mobile pharmacies to help in emergencies

The Veterans Affairs Department is deploying mobile pharmacies as part of its emergency management capabilities to provide critical medicine when patients are unable to fill their prescriptions. VA also will open the facilities to help communities during major disasters and other emergencies, VA Secretary Dr. James Peake said.

VA rolled out several mobile medical clinics as part of its response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which severely damaged VA medical centers along the Gulf Coast. VA unveiled the first mobile pharmacy in September in front of VA headquarters in Washington and expects delivery of its second mobile pharmacy later this month.

Each mobile pharmacy is housed in a 40-foot solid steel trailer built to withstand winds in a Category 3 storm. The units include a satellite connection with VA’s Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy system, a computerized, automated mail-out pharmacy that can process more than 1,000 prescriptions hourly.

Pharmacists can use the satellite system to obtain a veteran’s prescription data to dispense the drugs on-site. In addition, VA can send replacement medications during an emergency by mail or another carrier to a veteran’s home or temporary address.

“Our mobile clinics enabled us to provide critical services during hurricanes Katrina and Rita not only to veterans but also to thousands of others in the area who were adversely affected by the storm,” said Michael Valentino, VA’s pharmacy chief. “These new mobile pharmacy units will ensure that we are even better prepared for future emergencies.”

To ensure rapid response to emergencies, VA plans to strategically place the mobile pharmacies in Dallas; Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and Charleston, S.C. VA will acquire a fourth unit to be placed in the western United States.

Pharmacy workers from across the country have already volunteered to staff the units in the event of an emergency. Six pharmacists who were part of a regional disaster drill have already completed their training and can deploy on short notice.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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