Tony Braswell, the founder and CEO of Gale Healthcare, which styles itself “Uber for nurses,” is well aware of the needs of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. His Tampa-based company has created a mobile platform that connects chronically understaffed health care institutions with nurses who are available to pick up extra work — and it’s been a massive success, catapulting Gale Healthcare onto the Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest-growing privately owned companies.
So, when it became apparent that Hurricane Ian was going to be a major threat to nursing homes and their patients in Southwest Florida, Braswell and Scot Morrison, the firm’s regional director of operations, ordered $15,000 worth of essential supplies — antibacterial wipes, adult diapers, socks, shirts, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc. — from Amazon and delivered them to five hard-hit facilities in Fort Myers and Naples after the storm passed.
“We reached out on Wednesday (Sept. 28, the day Ian made landfall),” Morrison says. “We called them up and said, ‘What do ya’ll need?’ We got a wish list from each one, put together a budget, started ordering supplies and asked the community for donations, as well.”
Morrison says the Gale team is in constant contact with the facilities that use its platform, not just during emergencies, so they knew right away that “they were in trouble,” he says.
“We’re sending clinicians into these facilities all day long. The nurses we were sending in were telling us, ‘This place needs this, this place needs that, anything you can do.’ That’s when we rallied the troops, got the company involved and got the supplies ordered.”
'We learned from the last hurricane what do to this time. We’ve got backup servers so we can keep our nurses getting paid. If one server goes down, another one comes online.' Tony Braswell, founder and CEO of Gale Healthcare
Morrison says more than a dozen Gale employees volunteered to unpack and repack Amazon packages and load them up for transportation to the Fort Myers/Naples area. He then drove a truck to Naples on the Sunday following Ian's landfall and was unloading supplies Monday morning.
“I don’t want to say it was an enjoyable time,” Morrison says, “but it was a good thing to do.”
While Morrison led the hurricane-relief efforts in Southwest Florida, Braswell ensured business continuity for Gale Healthcare.
“Because of our technology, we have people all over the country — we’re staffing in 40 states today,” he says. “We didn’t know if our phones would go down, so we were able to get people in other markets like Ohio and North Carolina to man the phones. But because we are a platform in the cloud, it doesn’t affect us so much. As long as cell phone service is working, our platform works.”
He adds, “We learned from the last hurricane what do to this time. We’ve got backup servers so we can keep our nurses getting paid. If one server goes down, another one comes online. We’re not worried about going down, and if your house just got wiped out, we can still pay you; we can still get you work.”
According to Braswell, a house belonging to one of the nurses who uses the Gale platform was destroyed along with eight neighboring residences.
And just like ordinary citizens, hospitals and nursing homes, Morrison says, can always be better prepared for hurricanes.
“Just one pack of 500 antibacterial wipes can make the difference whether somebody's living or not, because it's all about that hygiene,” he says. “That’s the big thing that these places can all do better.”
Braswell adds, “But how many people are ready? How many people have a stockpile of food and cash at home? We all know we’re supposed to do it. Until you learn that you need it, you don’t have it, and that’s the problem.”