As Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas struggle with Hurricane Michael’s devastation and slow-rising death toll, hospitals, nursing homes, and other caregiving facilities across the country may need to reexamine their disaster planning, paying heightened attention to extreme and worst-case scenarios.
Although doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel deserve great credit, as always, for their courage and fortitude in helping the sick and injured, the New York Times reported that, even with disaster plans in place, care-giving facilities got caught short by the latest powerful hurricane:
As Michael bore down and then passed, some hospitals in the region closed entirely, and others evacuated their patients, but kept staff in place to run overwhelmed emergency rooms. In Florida, four hospitals and 11 nursing facilities were closed, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Panama City has five hospitals, according to the Florida Health Association. Bay Medical, with 323 beds, and Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center, with 238, are the biggest. Florida officials also said food and supplies were being dropped in by air to the state’s mental hospital in Chattahoochee, which is cut off by land. The mental hospital has a section that houses the criminally insane, but the facility itself has not been breached, officials said. Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia said 35 hospitals or nursing homes in that state were without electricity and operating with generators. Federal health officials said they were moving approximately 400 medical and public health responders into affected areas, including six disaster teams that can set up medical operations outdoors. Some were heading to an overwhelmed emergency department in Tallahassee. Other federal medical personnel were being assigned to search-and-rescue teams to triage people who were rescued. University of Florida Health Shands Hospital sent ambulances and four helicopters to assist in rescue efforts, transporting patients out of Panhandle hospitals.