After Ian, Florida healthcare facilities evacuate patients

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(AP) — Thousands of people were evacuated from Florida nursing homes and hospitals Thursday even as the winds and water from Hurricane Ian began to recede. Hundreds of those evacuations took place in the hard-hit area of ​​Fort Myers, where damage cut off drinking water to at least nine hospitals.

Kristen Knapp of the Florida Health Care Association said 43 nursing homes evacuated about 3,400 residents Thursday morning, mostly in southwest Florida.

As many as 20 facilities had reported power outages, but Knapp says generators are powering those buildings. The water was also cut off in some facilities. And an area hospital has begun to assess all the damage caused by fierce winds that ripped off parts of its roof and submerged its emergency room.

In this photo provided by Dr. Birgit Bodine, a staff member stands in a flooded hallway at HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Hurricane Ian flooded the hospital in Florida from above and below, storm surge flooded its lower-level emergency room while high winds ripped off part of its roof on the fourth floor of its intensive care unit, according to Bodine , who works there.(Source: Dr. Birgit Bodine via AP)

In Orlando, residents of the Avante nursing home were evacuated to waiting ambulances and buses by floodwaters in a neighborhood that is not usually flooded. Paramedics deployed residents one by one on stretchers and wheelchairs. At the nearby Palm Island at Baldwin apartment complex, cars were submerged in the parking lot.

Although the problem was too much water in much of the state, at least nine hospitals in southwest Florida had the opposite problem.

“We have a large health system in Southwest Florida that is without water in all of its facilities. And so they are rapidly approaching a point where they can no longer safely care for their patients. There is therefore an urgent need to transfer these patients,” said Mary Mayhew, president of the Florida Hospital Association.

Mayhew said more than 1,200 patients were being evacuated.

Meanwhile, other hospitals could find themselves even more strained, she said.

“Extensive efforts are underway to rescue people who will also need medical attention. And to identify available hospital beds either in the region or elsewhere,” she said.

Hurricane Ian flooded HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte – just north of Fort Myers – from above and below, as storm surge flooded its lower-level emergency room while strong winds ripped through part of his roof on the fourth floor of his intensive care unit, according to a doctor who works there.

Dr Birgit Bodine spent the night in hospital, anticipating the storm would make things busy, “but we hadn’t expected the roof to explode on the fourth floor,” she said.

Water gushed from above the intensive care unit on Wednesday, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients – some on ventilators – to other floors. Staff members resorted to towels and plastic bins to try and mop up the soggy mess.

The medium-sized hospital spans four floors, but patients have only been forced to two due to the damage.

Bodine plans to spend another night in the hospital, when injuries from the storm could make matters worse.

“Ambulances could be arriving soon and we don’t know where to put them in the hospital at this stage,” she said. “Because we are doubled and tripled.”

Despite the flooding, Bodine said patients were mostly understanding and optimistic.

“For us, even though everything is terrible and we’re exhausted…as long as our patients are fine and no one ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that’s what matters,” Bodine said.

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Calvan reported from New York. Associated Press reporters Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida and Matt Sedensky in New York contributed to this story.

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