Hospitals face evacuations, water disruptions amid Ian: 3 updates

As hospitals and health systems in Florida grappled with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Sept. 29, organizations in South Carolina prepared for the effects of the storm.

Hurricane Ian made landfall Sept. 28 as a Category 4 storm near Cayo Costa, Fla. At the time of publication, Ian regained hurricane strength after being downgraded to a tropical storm. Ian is expected to reach the coast Sept. 30. Hurricane-force winds are expected along the South Carolina and southeast North Carolina coasts later Sept. 30, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The federal government declared major disasters in Florida and South Carolina, opening up federal funding for disaster recovery efforts such as grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs. Meanwhile, more than 2.5 million Florida homes and businesses were without power as of Sept. 29, data from poweroutage.us showed. As of Sept. 30, about 2 million Florida homes and businesses were still without power, and more than 22,000 South Carolina homes and businesses were without power. 

And hospitals and health systems continue to see the effects of the storm.

Three things to know as of Sept. 30:

1. Hospitals are implementing emergency operations. The Medical University of South Carolina Health Charleston hospital division said it would adopt emergency operations at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 and "operate under shelter in place status until further notice." The announcement came in a news release shared with Becker's. MUSC also said all outpatient clinics are closed Sept. 30. Meanwhile, MUSC Health is offering an online virtual urgent care service at no cost for those who register with an email address. More information is available here. Flagler Health in St. Augustine, Fla., also initiated a "soft lockdown" Sept. 29, temporarily pausing elective surgeries and closing to visitors, according to NBC News. Additionally, Charleston-based Trident Medical Center and Summerville (S.C.) Medical Center have closed their outpatient services Sept. 30, with the expectation of returning to normal operations Oct. 2, according to ABC affiliate WCIV

2. Evacuations and transfers continue. Sixteen hospitals in Florida had evacuated or were in the process of doing so Sept. 29, Mary Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association, told NBC News. Some hospitals are already planning for return transfers in the wake of Ian's landfall. AdventHealth North Pinellas in Tarpon Springs, Fla., had transferred numerous patients to other AdventHealth facilities in the Tampa Bay area Sept. 27. These individuals are set to return to the Tarpon Springs hospital Sept. 30. 

3. Florida hospitals grapple with storm aftermath. Ms. Mayhew told Becker's challenges hospitals are facing in the aftermath were largely unknown Sept. 29. "Many hospitals are assessing the damage and evaluating their physical structures for water and wind damage," she said. "Some hospitals are without water due to disruptions in public water systems and have implemented emergency evacuation plans to ensure the safety of their patients. There are hospitals that sustained structural damage and have evacuated their patients." 

At least nine hospitals in Florida's Lee County were without water as of Sept. 29, according to NBC News. Affected facilities include several from Lee Health, which evacuated hundreds of patients after the storm disrupted its water supply and led to low water pressure. 

"Loss of power and running water continue to be the primary challenges, and Lee Health and its partners are addressing these issues to fix the problems as quickly as possible," the Fort Myers, Fla.-based health system said Sept. 29.

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