Hurricane Ian forces Florida hospitals to evacuate patients

Hospitals and health systems have postponed surgeries and closed some facilities as the powerful storm approached.

With Hurricane Ian expected to hit Florida Wednesday, hospitals prepared for the powerful storm.

Some hospitals are transferring patients and scaling back services ahead of the powerful hurricane. Scores of hospital facilities will be closed Wednesday and Thursday. Hurricane warnings are in effect along Florida's west coast and into part of central Florida, The Weather Channel reports.

The hurricane was projected to hit Florida Wednesday. More than 2.5 million people were under an evacuation order, CNN reported. Kevin Guthrie, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, implored residents not to ignore the order.

"I urge everyone that is in an evacuation zone that has been asked to evacuate - the time is now," he said Tuesday.

HCA Healthcare operates scores of hospitals in the Sunshine State. HCA Healthcare West Florida Division moved some patients from a few of its hospitals.

The system said Tuesday it has transferred patients from HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital, HCA Florida South Tampa Hospital and HCA Florida West Tampa Hospital to other HCA hospitals in Florida. The West Florida division also suspended services at freestanding emergency departments Tuesday night.

“Our preparedness activities include ensuring our hospitals have enough caregivers, medications, supplies, food, water and generator power to care for our patients during the storm,” HCA Healthcare West Florida Division said in a statement.

Tampa General Hospital is postponing elective surgeries Wednesday and Thursday, and ambulatory surgery centers are closed Wednesday and Thursday as well. The hospital also advised the public that it can’t serve as a shelter in order to ensure enough resources for patients. Tampa General built a temporary wall around the hospital to protect the facility from flooding, The Weather Channel reported.

AdventHealth, which operates a host of hospitals in Florida, is postponing elective surgeries in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties Wednesday and Thursday. Some imaging centers will either close or have limited hours over the next couple of days.

BayCare, which operates several hospitals in Florida, closed the Morton Plant North Bay Hospital Tuesday. BayCare is closing urgent care and ambulatory surgery centers will be closed Wednesday, and medical group offices will be closed Wednesday and Thursday. BayCare paused visitation at all of its hospitals Tuesday night, with only limited exceptions.

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System closed urgent care centers Tuesday night, and said physician group offices would be closed Wednesday and Thursday.

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute was closed Tuesday and will be closed Wednesday due to the storm.

Hospitals in Florida haven’t had to deal with hurricane preparations as much as in past years. The arrival of Hurricane Ian comes after what had started as a slow hurricane season. No hurricanes formed in the Atlantic in August, the first time since 1997 that had happened. But Ian is now the ninth hurricane of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest health systems, tracks hurricanes and other major weather events at an emergency operations center based in Nashville, Tennessee. HCA has an incident response team of nearly 200 leaders.

This year, HCA said its emergency center began using a new algorithm to reduce hospital evacuation time.

(Note: This roundup is meant to summarize how Hurricane Ian is affecting hospitals and health systems in Florida. For the latest information on hospital services, please check with the individual hospitals and health systems.)