Thirty-six Florida hospitals were forced to close their doors to the public, casualties of Hurricane Irma’s destructive path running up the length of the Sunshine State.
Nearly 12 percent of the state’s more than 300 hospitals decided to close thanks to Irma—the closures primarily were taken as precautionary measures in advance of the hurricane’s arrival, according to the Florida Hospital Association.
“Patient care and safety is our No. 1 concern. Based upon the projected storm surge, we have decided to evacuate Kindred Hospital-Bay Area-Tampa,” stated an announcement from the acute long-term care hospital.
However, among the hardest hit areas for closings was Miami, which saw seven hospitals shut down, including: Anne Bates Leach Eye Hospital in Miami, HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Miami, Mercy Hospital in Miami, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Sister Emmanuel Hospital in Miami, University of Miami Hospital and Clinics, and West Gables Rehabilitation Hospital in Miami.
“Hospital closures are individually evaluated,” said FHA in a written statement. “Some may be under mandatory evacuation orders from their county, others may determine the need to close based on risks identified in their emergency preparedness plan, for example, adequate fuel, drugs, supplies, etc.”
Currently, there are 54 hospitals statewide operating on backup generators and in communication with their local emergency operations officials, as well as the state Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health, according to FHA.
“Our goal is to ensure any unmet needs for fuel or other resources are addressed as quickly as possible,” said FHA. “Hospitals are defined as part of Florida’s critical infrastructure and are given priority for power restoration.”
While some hospitals have reported “water intrusion” as a result of Irma, the association said it has not been severe enough flooding to limit hospital operations. Likewise, although some hospitals have reported issues with Internet connections, FHA reports that no electronic health record systems failed, adding that “there are backup systems for patient documentation.”
So far, more than 2,000 patients have been transferred from hospitals, assisted living facilities and nursing homes to other facilities, according to FHA.
“The State of Florida Emergency Response Teams are currently assessing the hospitals in the field and specifically visiting locations that have reported damage or critical needs,” concludes the association. “Confirmed damage assessments are forthcoming. We have received reports that there are hospitals that initially curtailed services, but are reopening quickly now that the storm has passed.”
Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton, which evacuated more than 200 patients to Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, announced on Monday night that it officially reopened. “The hospital is fully operational, and our Emergency Care Center will be open for patients of all ages,” said spokeswoman Betty Chambliss.
For its part, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach announced that beginning Tuesday it will resume normal operations on its main campus. “All campus buildings will be open, and visitors are welcome.”
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