Wait­ing for Irene

East Coast hos­pi­tals brace for pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane

Modern Healthcare - - Late News - Vince Gal­loro, Me­lanie Evans and Jes­sica Zig­mond Editor’s note: Visit Mod­ern­health­care.com for break­ing cov­er­age on the im­pact of Hur­ri­cane Irene. GETTY IM­AGES

Health­care providers along the East Coast from North Carolina to New Eng­land girded them­selves for an ex­pected beat­ing from Hur­ri­cane Irene, which was on track to make land­fall in North Carolina on Satur­day and then move north along the coast.

The pre­cau­tions in­cluded a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion of hos­pi­tals and nurs­ing homes in low­ly­ing ar­eas of New York City. HHS ac­ti­vated the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Med­i­cal Sys­tem and U.S. Pub­lic Health Ser­vice to pro­vide med­i­cal teams, pub­lic health teams and hos­pi­tal sup­port.

The scene was all too fa­mil­iar for Les­lie Hirsch, pres­i­dent and CEO of Denville, N.J.based St. Clare’s Health Sys­tem (part of Catholic Health Ini­tia­tives), who started as CEO of New Or­leans-based Touro In­fir­mary one week be­fore Ka­t­rina rav­aged the Gulf Coast in Au­gust 2005. Hirsch is now pre­par­ing his sys­tem for this hur­ri­cane after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie de­clared a state of emer­gency.

“Our com­mand cen­ter is in full op­er­a­tion,” Hirsch said. “We’re in dis­as­ter-alert mode,” he said, adding that first and fore­most, St. Clare’s is as­sess­ing its pa­tient cen­sus. “We’ve cut off elec­tive surg­eries and elec­tive ad­mis­sions.” St. Clare’s will also ac­cel­er­ate—where ap­pro­pri­ate—pa­tient dis­charges, he said.

Univer­sity Health Sys­tems of East­ern Carolina, Greenville, N.C., owns, leases or is af fili--

Am­bu­lances wait to evac­u­ate pa­tients Fri­day from Coney Is­land Hos­pi­tal. ated with eight hos­pi­tals that could be af­fected by Irene, spokes­woman Beth Anne Atkins said. The one most clearly in Irene’s pro­jected path is 19-bed Outer Banks Hos­pi­tal, Nags Head, N.C., and that hos­pi­tal was dis­charg­ing or relocating all in­pa­tients, Atkins said. Outer Banks Hos­pi­tal planned to stay open for emer­gency care with a skele­ton staff, and close if Dare County emer­gency of­fi­cials sug­gested it, she said.

Sys­temwide, some sched­uled surg­eries were post­poned if they re­quired an overnight stay, Atkins said. The hos­pi­tals stocked up on blood, med­i­cal gases, wa­ter, food and fuel for emer­gency ve­hi­cles, she said. The sys­tem also re­moved a crane work­ing on its chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal con­struc­tion site in Greenville and shifted its three emer­gency he­li­copters to a hangar at an inland air­port.

Far­ther south and away from the area where Irene is ex­pected to make land­fall, New Hanover Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter, Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., sched­uled lock­downs at its three area hos­pi­tals Fri­day evening, and out­pa­tient sites were sched­uled to close Fri­day af­ter­noon. All elec­tive surg­eries and pro­ce­dures sched­uled for Satur­day were post­poned.

In nearby Bo­livia, N.C., of­fi­cials at Brunswick No­vant Com­mu­nity Hos­pi­tal have been grate­ful as big storms by­passed the area over the past few years while their 74-bed re­place­ment hos­pi­tal was un­der con­struc­tion, spokes­woman Amy My­ers said. The hos­pi­tal, which opened the new fa­cil­ity in July, planned to lock all doors ex­cept to the emer­gency depart­ment Fri­day evening and asked staff mem­bers work­ing Fri­day night and Satur­day to make plans to stay at the hos­pi­tal if nec­es­sary.

Sen­tara Health­care, Nor­folk, Va., evac­u­ated 93 res­i­dents at its Sen­tara Nurs­ing Cen­terCur­rituck, Barco, N.C., pur­suant to an evac­u­a­tion or­der is­sued by Cur­rituck County, ac­cord­ing to a Sen­tara re­lease.

Seven of Sen­tara’s 10 hos­pi­tals are in the Hamp­ton Roads re­gion of Vir­ginia near the coast, and they stocked up on all the nec­es­sary sup­plies and opened their in­ci­dent com­mand cen­ters to deal with Irene, said Vicky Gray, se­nior vice pres­i­dent. Vol­un­teers of­fered child-care ser­vice for nurses who needed to stay at their posts, Gray said. Sen­tara’s home-health agen­cies would be vis­it­ing ev­ery pa­tient by mid­morn­ing Satur­day, she said.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg or­dered hos­pi­tals, nurs­ing homes and res­i­dents in highly flood-prone ar­eas to evac­u­ate ahead of Hur­ri­cane Irene. “Now, we have never done a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion be­fore and we wouldn’t be do­ing this now if we didn’t think the storm had the po­ten­tial to be very se­ri­ous,” Bloomberg said in a news con­fer­ence.

Two-cam­pus Staten Is­land Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal said on its web­site that roughly 360 pa­tients would be trans­ferred by the end of the day Fri­day. The Vet­er­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion New York Har­bor Health­care Sys­tem said its Man­hat­tan Med­i­cal Cen­ter would trans­fer about 100 pa­tients else­where in the sys­tem.

NYU Lan­gone Med­i­cal Cen­ter said in a news re­lease the evac­u­a­tion would in­clude 400 Tisch Hos­pi­tal and Rusk In­sti­tute of Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Medicine pa­tients. New York City Health and Hos­pi­tals Corp. said about 250 pa­tients would be trans­ferred be­fore the end of the day Fri­day from Coney Is­land Hos­pi­tal. Other New York hos­pi­tals in­cluded in the evac­u­a­tion were Penin­sula Hos­pi­tal Cen­ter and St. John’s Epis­co­pal Hospi­talSouth Shore. <<

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