Florida hospitals evacuated for Hurricane Irma, now many reopening

2017-09-12 | The Miami Herald

Sept. 12--In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Florida hospitals are returning to regular operations, discharging high-risk patients who had sheltered at their facilities during the storm, and preparing for an influx of emergency room visits from people suffering falls, cuts and other mishaps related to the recovery.

But not all hospitals and healthcare facilities are ready to rebound after Irma. As of Monday, more than 435 healthcare centers statewide, including 30 hospitals, 61 nursing homes and 280 assisted living facilities had evacuated for the storm, the Florida Department of Health said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, speaking in Opa-locka on Monday, said he had spent much of the day on the phone with nursing home and assisted living facility administrators who didn't have power. In the Florida Keys, he said, healthcare facilities are stuck without water and sewer service, too.

"Our hospitals are not fully staffed, so our ERs are not fully staffed," Scott said. "So you have to be really cautious."

A former hospital executive, Scott said he recognized the challenges that healthcare facilities face during natural disasters because he was CEO of Columbia Healthcare, which operated several hospitals in Florida, when Hurricane Andrew ravaged South Dade in 1992.

"We had 500 employees without homes," he said of Andrew's impact.

In Miami-Dade and Broward, hospitals began returning to normal operations.

The University of Miami Health System, or UHealth, said it had opened outpatient clinics for patients with acute illnesses needing chemotherapy or radiation. UHealth also began to resume normal operations at its campuses, which include UM Hospital, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

UHealth patients can call 305-243-6079 for more information.

Cleveland Clinic Florida said its facilities, including a hospital and clinic in Weston and facilities in Parkland and West Palm Beach will resume normal operations on Tuesday. Patient appointments, elective surgeries and outpatient will proceed as scheduled, according to a written statement from the hospital.

Cleveland Clinic Florida patients can call 800-546-4138 for more information.

Broward Health, the public hospital network for the northern end of the county, said all of its hospitals resumed normal operations on Monday, including Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health Imperial Point in Fort Lauderdale, Broward Health North in Deerfield Beach and Broward Health Coral Springs.

Broward Health's urgent care centers in Weston and Coral Springs also reopened Monday. All other Broward Health facilities are scheduled to reopen on Tuesday. Patients should call 954-355-5111 for more information.

Memorial Healthcare System, the public hospital network for the South Broward, said its hospitals had discharged all its sheltered pregnant women. "Little by little we are getting back to normal operations," said Kerting Baldwin, a spokeswoman, in an email.

Baldwin said Memorial Healthcare's six hospitals remained open during the storm, but that administrators were still assessing damage to outpatient clinics, doctors offices and other facilities before reopening them.

Baptist Health South Florida said its five Miami-Dade hospitals were resuming a normal schedule as administrators worked to reopen two smaller hospitals in the Florida Keys -- Mariner's Hospital and Fishermen's Community Hospital.

Baptist Health had transferred about 20 patients out of the Keys prior to the storm, placing them at the system's Miami-Dade facilities, including Baptist Hospital Miami, South Miami Hospital, Doctor's Hospital, Homestead Hospital and West Kendall Baptist.

During the storm, the hospital system kept its ERs open, fielding what Wayne Brackin, Baptist Health's COO, called "actual emergencies," such as heart attacks, emergency C-sections and other urgent needs.

Brackin said he expected storm-related injuries to follow once Irma had passed.

"That's when you get the people out trying to recover and do the usual thing," he said, "fall off the ladder, or cut themselves with a chainsaw."

For patient information, call 855-316-4636

Those are the kinds of patients now arriving at Tenet Healthcare's emergency rooms, said Shelly Weiss, a spokeswoman. In Miami-Dade, Tenet operates Coral Gables Hospital, Hialeah Hospital, North Shore Medical Center in Miami, and Palmetto General Hospital.

"We are seeing many patients with storm-related injuries," Weiss said in an email. "Our hospitals in Miami are all open and caring for patients."

In addition to hospitals, other critical care facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties also said they were trying to resume normal operations.

DaVita Kidney Care, which provides dialysis treatment to 3,700 patients at 41 centers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, said its priority was accounting for patients and employees, and assessing facilities.

Patients who need dialysis but cannot access a center due to storm damage will be routed to other locations, DaVita said in a press release. DaVita patients should call 800-400-8331 for more information.