As the Florida Keys slowly recovers from the damage wrought by Hurricane Irma, one facet of life in the Upper Keys returns to normal today with the reopening of Mariners Hospital in Tavernier.
Mariners evacuated its patients as Irma approached, and the small community hospital’s first floor was flooded during the storm, said Wayne Brackin, chief operating officer for Baptist Health South Florida, which owns the facility.
Brackin said workers dried out the hospital’s first floor earlier this week, and that the 25-bed hospital’s emergency room reopened Wednesday afternoon. But the rest of the hospital will open to all patients today.
“We’ve got the doctors and nurses, equipment, staff and everything,” Brackin said.
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Brackin said that since Mariner’s ER opened, doctors and nurses have mostly treated patients who are dehydrated and others who have been injured during recovery work.
One group affected by the storm that hasn’t received much attention are hospital workers. At Mariners, most of the staff lives in the Keys, Brackin said.
“They have been very significantly impacted,” he said. “The extent of that is not going to be known for a while. They were evacuated and they’re steadily coming back and they’re finding all kinds of circumstances. Some of their houses have been completely destroyed and some of them are intact.”
Brackin said Baptist Health’s chaplains and other staff have been working with affected hospital workers, trying to find temporary housing for those who lost their homes.
He said Baptist Health will also provide child car But absolutely affected, so we’re spending a lot of time assessing what their personal situations are
“I expect that Baptist Health will be providing a lot of support for them, including housing and child care,” Brackin said of Mariners employees, “and taking away all of the impediments, which will allow them to come back and work at Mariners Hospital.”
A second Baptist Health facility in the Keys, Fishermen’s Community Hospital, remains shuttered after evacuating patients ahead of Irma. Fishermen’s is located in Marathon, which suffered some of the worst damage from the storm.
Brackin said Fishermen’s Hospital “probably got some significant storm surge” based on the damage that he saw at the facility earlier this week.
“It had a lot of water come in from the roof,” he said, “and we are having the structure assessed by an independent expert, and then the environmental issues of air quality and many other environmental hazards.”
Brackin said he did not expect to receive a structural assessment for Fishermen’s until the weekend at the earliest.
“At that point,” he said, “we’ll have an idea of what we’re dealing with,” he said. “If the structure is sound and we get a clean bill of health from the environmental report, then that gives us some direction.”
Baptist Health also has five hospitals in Miami-Dade, and Brackin said those facilities are at or above capacity as patients are unable to be discharged to their homes due to lack of power and others are admitted from healthcare facilities that still have no electricity, like nursing homes and assisted living facilities.