When New York City found itself at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, International Medical Corps rushed to provide much-needed aid to New York’s Jamaica and Flushing Hospital Medical Centers—part of the MediSys Health Network—in the form of emergency medical field units, personal protective equipment (PPE) and a total of 33 volunteer clinicians who deployed over the course of our multi-week response. In October 2022, those hospitals returned the favor, deploying three doctors and three nurses to our Hurricane Ian response in Florida.
“It was a one of those experiences where good comes out of bad during a crisis,” says Sue Mangicaro, the Emergency Response Team Lead who drove our effort to support the New York healthcare facilities in April 2020 and who also led our recent Hurricane Ian response.
When Ian made landfall as a powerful Category 4 hurricane in southwestern Florida on September 28, MediSys President and CEO Bruce Flanz immediately thought of Mangicaro, who lives in the hurricane’s path in Naples, Florida. When he called to make sure she was okay, Mangicaro—whose second-floor condo sustained only minor damage—told Flanz she was fine and explained that she would be helping International Medical Corps mount a response in the area.
Flanz asked if there was anything MediSys could do. After all, the health network is no stranger to helping out in an emergency. In 1992, Jamaica and Flushing were the only hospitals in New York state to send relief teams to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. And though their hospitals are located in a different part of New York City, MediSys sent eight ambulances to the borough of Manhattan on September 11, 2001 (one of the ambulances arrived so early on the scene that it was destroyed when the second World Trade Center tower fell). MediSys also deployed first responders to Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and again in 2020 after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the island.
“Both MediSys and International Medical Corps are extremely mission driven and have very similar goals: we both want to help wherever we can,” Flanz explains.
So MediSys stepped in again, sending a team of ambulatory care, primary care and emergency care providers—including nurses Lisa Fraumeni-Pickel, Laurie Regan and Janina Rivera, and doctors Sherissa Charles, Umer Hassan and Susan Philipose—to work alongside our team in Florida.
“International Medical Corps sent us teams of people, supplies and equipment in 2020, and it just helped so much. You were absolutely phenomenal in helping us during those most critical periods,” Flanz says, noting that there was no shortage of volunteers from MediSys Health Network to reciprocate for the mission. “We were really thrilled to be part of an organized effort working with you in Florida.”
The MediSys team arrived in Englewood, Florida, on October 16 and stayed for six days, supporting International Medical Corps’ two mobile medical units by providing basic healthcare, prescribing medication, vaccinating patients against infectious diseases and conducting community outreach. International Medical Corps’ teams also provided mental health and psychosocial support services, and distributed crucial supplies to damaged communities.
Members of the MediSys team found the deployment experience powerful but difficult. “It was one thing when patients came to the mobile units, but it was eye opening to see them at their homes,” says Dr. Charles of the devastation she witnessed while conducting community outreach. “There were some homes that looked like there was no hurricane, right next to houses that were flattened.”
“We felt very taken care of the entire trip, from the beginning to the very end,” adds Fraumeni-Pickel, Assistant Director of Nursing at Jamaica Hospital. “International Medical Corps is a wonderful organization, and I was so glad to be a part of this mission.”
Team members were touched by the gratitude they received from the people they treated.
“The main sentiment that we noticed from a lot of the patients was that they were just grateful that they weren’t forgotten, and that we were there, helping them and just providing any relief,” Dr. Charles says.
Everyone involved in the effort expects that this won’t be the last time MediSys deploys with International Medical Corps.
“It will truly be our pleasure to work cooperatively and collaboratively with you in the future,” Flanz says.