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Florida Hospitals transfer patients, prep for Hurricane Ian

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | September 30, 2022
Florida Hospitals are transferring patients and prepping for the arrival of Hurricane Ian.
In the lead-up to Hurricane Ian’s arrival, hospitals in Florida evacuated patients to other facilities and called off noncritical procedures in advance of Hurricane Ian.

HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital employed five helicopters to ship about 40 patients to providers outside Pinellas County’s mandatory evacuation zone late Monday, September 26. The health system also moved patients from its facilities in South, West and Central Tampa and suspended services.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital halted elective procedures and closed its outpatient centers, as did Tampa General Hospital with its noncritical procedures and urgent care and surgery centers and clinics, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

“TGH will remain open to provide care during the storm. We are taking significant precautions to ensure the continued safety of our patients and team members,” said Tampa General Hospital in a statement. “Our number one priority remains the safety of our patients and team members.”

Arriving as a major Category 3 storm, Hurricane Ian hit the sunshine state’s west coast late Wednesday, September 28, bringing with it heavy rains, inland flooding and a life-threatening storm surge, according to NPR.

Cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg issued evacuation orders as they braced for what was their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921, reported NPR. Governor Ron DeSantis said evacuation orders pertained to 2.5 million people. All Department of Health offices and clinics in Orange County were closed September 28 and September 29.

Some hospitals that remained open had measures in place for protecting patients and staff during the storm. TGH moved its electrical, air conditioning and other critical systems to floors 25 feet above ground. It also has “submarine doors,” six-inch metal barrier doors with inflatable bladders that create water-tight seals below.

For patients it transferred, HCA has set up a phone hotline to reunite them with their loved ones. “We wanted our patients’ families to know where their loved ones would be prior to the storm,” hospital chief executive Brent Burish told the Tampa Bay Times.

The state's hospitals were previously devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017. In preparation for that storm, many employed mobile imaging units to offset delays and power outage effects, moved portable equipment above ground, and ensured in-house imaging systems were bolted down.

The Biden administration has declared Hurricane Ian an emergency and authorized the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance, including strategically positioned generators, millions of meals and millions of liters of water.

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