Louisiana hospitals grapple with Hurricane Ida: Generator failures, roof damage and more

Several Louisiana hospitals are grappling with storm damage and generator failures as Hurricane Ida slams the state, bringing torrential rainfall and wind gusts of over 100 miles per hour. 

In particular, New Orleans-based Ochsner Health has reported roof damage and water leaks at several of its Louisiana facilities, including Ochsner St. Anne Hospital in Raceland and Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma, according to local news station WWL-TV

The St. Anne facility faced the worst damage, according to the report. The roof faced substantial damage, and a section above an elevator blew out, rendering that elevator unusable. Windows also were broken in two patient rooms. 

Patients at both Oschner facilities will be evacuated to different hospitals Aug. 30. In particular, 21 patients will be moved from St. Anne Hospital, and 45 patients will be moved from Chabert Medical Center, according to WWL-TV. No injuries were reported.

Wind gusts from Hurricane Ida also ripped off a portion of the room from the Lady of the Sea General Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in Galliano, La., on Aug. 29, according to the Lafourche Gazette.

Lady of the Sea General Hospital CEO Karen Collins told the Gazette that all patients and staff are OK and no one was injured, but the hospital has suffered "significant damage" from the wind gusts.

Lady of the Sea said it plans to continue to provide care through the storm and doesn't have plans to evacuate patients at this time since they are in the middle of the storm.

"Lady of the Sea staff is continuing to provide care and safety for our patients in the hospital," a marketing representative from the hospital told the Gazette. "Since we are still in the middle of the storm, no one can be moved at this time. Please know we are doing all we can to ensure the safety and health of our patients."

A different Louisiana hospital, Thibodaux Regional Health System in Lafourche Parish, partially lost generator power Aug. 29. This left physicians and nurses scrambling to keep patients on oxygen breathing as they were moved to a different portion of the facility that still had power from a generator, according to NOLA.com.

Hospital staff were forced to manually push air in and out of patients' lungs. One physician from the facility reported that generators failed in the hospital's intensive care unit and described conditions inside as "Katrinaesque," according to NOLA.com.

Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge is preparing to accept some patients that need to be transferred from other facilities because of storm damage, according to The New York Times. The hospital said it is bracing for the influx at a time they are already strained by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Preparing for the storm

Ahead of Hurricane Ida, hospitals in the Gulf South were tasked with preparing for the storm amid a COVID-19 surge.

Ochsner evacuated 17 critically ill patients from hospitals in Morgan City, Houma and Raceland, La., The Advocate reported Aug. 28. 

"All of the facilities remain open for emergency services, so we’re here to serve the community," Michael Hulefeld, executive vice president and COO of Ochsner, told the newspaper. "We don't pack up and leave in the event of a storm like this."

Ochsner also announced Aug. 28 that its urgent care facilities, clinics and COVID-19 testing and vaccine locations in the Greater New Orleans, Bayou, Northshore and Baton Rouge regions would be closed Aug. 29-30 because of the hurricane. The health system encouraged patients to use Ochsner Anywhere Care for virtual visits.

Other hospitals also made changes to prepare for the hurricane.

North Oaks Medical Center in Hammond announced that the North Oaks Medical Center and North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital's main entrances would close temporarily beginning Aug. 29, and entry would be via the medical center emergency department.

Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge said the hospital would switch to generator power before the hurricane hit "to ensure no interruptions in patient care," according to The Advocate.

In Mississippi, health officials said they would divert critical care patients to hospitals in the northern part of the state, WWNO reported Aug. 28.

"When a storm comes, we try to make sure that critical patients are moved. We're making those actions now," Jim Craig, Mississippi State Department of Health director of health protection, told the radio station. "Remember, our hospitals and EMS agencies are already working at maximum capacity due to COVID-19. We're very grateful to the state and the federal staff that we have here to help us staff additional beds and resources in Mississippi."

The changes come as hospitals must ensure proper care of COVID-19 patients during the pandemic. As of Aug. 29, Louisiana had an average 2,448 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and Mississippi had 1,750 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, according to The New York Times.

HHS on Aug. 30 declared public health emergencies in Mississippi and Louisiana due to Hurricane Ida. This grants healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility to meet emergency health needs.

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