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Hurricane Idalia causes Florida hospitals to evacuate, move patients


Some hospitals had to close facilities and delay procedures due to the powerful storm.

Some Florida hospitals were forced to evacuate, transfer patients and close sites of care due to Hurricane Idalia.

AdventHealth closed the AdventHealth North Pinellas Hospital in advance of Hurricane Idalia. (Photo: AdventHealth)

AdventHealth closed the AdventHealth North Pinellas Hospital in advance of Hurricane Idalia. (Photo: AdventHealth)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday night that 10 hospitals evacuated due to Idalia.

“They reported minimal damage,” DeSantis said at a news briefing.

Nine of the 10 hospitals will be at “full operational status” within the next 24 hours. The other hospital should reopen shortly, he said.

“In terms of hospitals, in rural areas that received direct impact, the facilities remained operational and open to the public and we’re happy they were able to do that,” DeSantis said.

The Agency for Health Care Administration has employees working around the clock and is performing assessments at all facilities that were evacuated, said Jason Weida, the AHCA secretary. Teladoc, the telehealth company, is providing free virtual care visits to Florida residents impacted by the storm, he said.

The hurricane hit Florida’s Gulf Coast early Wednesday morning and moved into Georgia later in the day. Idalia became the most powerful hurricane to strike Florida’s Big Bend region, part of the state’s northwestern coast, in more than 125 years, CNN reported. Some areas of the Big Bend were experiencing “catastrophic flooding” due to Idalia, the Florida Division of Emergency Management said Wednesday afternoon.

While the Big Bend is one of the Sunshine State’s less populated areas, the storm also produced flooding in Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg.

Before Idalia made landfall in Florida, some hospitals temporarily evacuated patients.

Ahead of the storm, HCA Healthcare shut down a few of its hospitals, including HCA Florida West Tampa Hospital, HCA Florida Trinity West Hospital, and HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital. HCA also closed a few freestanding emergency care facilities.

AdventHealth also did a precautionary evacuation of its AdventHealth North Pinellas Hospital, but the system planned to reopen the emergency room Wednesday night. AdventHealth said it was working to begin transferring patients back to the hospital.

In addition, AdventHealth postponed elective surgeries at the Tampa, Wesley Chapel, Dade City and Zephyrhills hospitals.

Tampa General Hospital closed two freestanding emergency care centers, along with Florida West Coast clinics and offices Wednesday. Tampa General also postponed elective surgeries on Wednesday, but planned to reschedule the procedures.

In advance of Idalia’s arrival, Tampa General constructed fences to block flood waters from inundating the hospital, as NBC News reported. Tampa General is the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, but the hospital is also located on Davis Islands, an area that’s vulnerable to flooding from storms, The Tampa Bay Times reports. The fences were designed to hold up to storm surges of as much as 15 feet.

In a statement, Tampa General said the fences succeeded in preventing storm surge from inundating the hospital's main campus. The health system resumed normal operations Thursday.

BayCare Health System closed urgent care and ambulatory surgical centers around the Tampa area Wednesday. All BayCare Medical Group offices in the five-county region that included Tampa and Clearwater were closed Wednesday.

Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton put a “tiger dam” in place to counter flooding, and the hospital resumed normal visiting hours Wednesday afternoon. Manatee also said on its Facebook page, “Our thoughts go out to those in the Big Bend region of Florida dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane.”

Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville issued a statement of gratitude that northeastern Florida avoided major damage from the storm.

“Our hearts are with our fellow Floridians in the Big Bend area who experienced the worst of Idalia,” Wolfson said in a statement. “We also acknowledge the storm will impact communities north of us in the coming days and pray for their protection.”

Last September, Hurricane Ian unleashed heavy damage on Florida, disrupting healthcare providers. Hundreds of hospital patients and thousands of residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities had to be transferred. Ian tore off part of the roof of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital located in Port Charlotte.

Hurricane Ian led to 149 deaths, the Associated Press reported.

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