Two hospitals in Florida are evacuating all of their roughly 330 patients due to damage from Hurricane Michael.
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Bay Medical Sacred Heart, which sheltered 1,500 people — staff’s families, first responders and patients — from the storm Wednesday said Thursday that that although everyone is safe, the building was damaged and it is evacuating more than 200 patients.
Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center also announced in a statement that it’s evacuating its approximately 130 patients, starting with the most critically ill “because of the infrastructure challenges in our community.”
“Until we can be certain of stable public power, water and sewage systems, our patients will be safest in our neighboring hospitals,” the statement from Gulf Coast Regional said.
Both hospitals said they are keeping their emergency rooms open.
Bay Medical said on social media that it “sustained damage including windows blown out, cracking of an exterior wall and roof damage” when the hurricane hit the coast around Panama City on Wednesday. In a news release, the hospital said it also had water damage.
“A section of the roof collapsed in the hospital’s materials management building. … Hurricane Michael also caused substantial broken glass, cooling and plumbing issues and loss of information systems,” Bay Medical Sacred Heart said.
The hospital before the storm had taken in families and pets of hospital staff as well as first responders.
Dr. Doug Scott, its emergency medical director, said area residents also came to the hospital for shelter during the hurricane.
“One, in fact, was walking barefoot and there was broken glass everywhere,” Scott told ABC News’ David Muir Thursday.
At one point, the storm blew down the outside emergency department doors, Scott said. “It formed a wind tunnel through the emergency department.”
“We had to block off doors with stretchers and bolts and everything to be able to shut down the wind tunnel that was coming through the hospital like a freight train,” he said.
Another doctor at Bay Medical said Hurricane Michael’s winds were extraordinarily powerful.
“I lived through [Hurricane] Katrina in New Orleans before coming here and the wind damage here was far worse in my experience,” cardiologist Sam Patel told Muir, adding that at the storm’s height, it sounded like a jet engine.
“Windows were being blown in and water was coming in. … Luckily none of our patients had any injuries due to the storm. … It was about two to three hours of pure hell,” Patel said. “Scary. … The wind damage was pretty phenomenal.”
“All patients, family members and staff are safe and patient care will continue until the last patient is transferred,” hospital CEO Scott Campbell said after Hurricane Michael passed. “If patients do not have a family member or other support persons with them at the hospital, we are reaching out to their emergency contacts.”
Staff from Ardent Health Services in Nashville also were flying Thursday morning to Panama City to deliver 1,000 ready-to-eat meals to the hospital for patients, staff and their families. Ardent is the parent of Bay Medical Sacred Heart.
The hospital said patients, including 39 in intensive care, would be sent to Pensacola and Jacksonville in Florida as well as Mobile, Alabama. Evacuations were expected to be completed in 48 hours.
The first 29 patients left at 4 a.m. Thursday via ground ambulance, according to Martha Crombie, Ardent Health Services’ vice president of marketing and planning, Americas Division. A helicopter arrived at 7:24 a.m. CT to pick up another patient.
Crombie said the emergency room department at Bay Medical Sacred Heart remains open and was accepting patients.
“Our staff and physicians have demonstrated extraordinary dedication throughout this crisis, providing exemplary care for our patients,” Campbell said. “This has been a truly noble effort and we are deeply grateful for their sacrifice.”
Bay Medical Sacred Heart has established a toll-free number, 1-888-727-4568, to support communication with family members of patients who have been evacuated to another hospital. The hospital will also continue to provide updates through Twitter and Facebook.