Hurricane

Will hospitals close during Hurricane Irma? Some already are evacuating

In this geocolor image captured by GOES-16 and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Irma approaches Anguilla on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has roared into the Caribbean, its winds ripping off roofs and knocking out phones. It's on a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly hitting Florida. (NOAA via AP)
In this geocolor image captured by GOES-16 and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Irma approaches Anguilla on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has roared into the Caribbean, its winds ripping off roofs and knocking out phones. It's on a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly hitting Florida. (NOAA via AP) AP

As Hurricane Irma locked in on a South Florida landfall this week, all three of Monroe County’s hospitals were evacuated and closed by Friday morning. But most hospitals in Miami-Dade are expected to remain open through the storm.

Miami-Dade County ordered its largest mandatory evacuation Wednesday and Thursday, instructing more than 650,000 people to leave their homes in three storm surge zones including barrier islands, low-lying mainland areas and Miami Beach.

Jackson Health System, the county’s public hospital system, said in a statement Friday that it would start operating in a state of emergency starting Saturday at 7 a.m. It said it had already canceled its appointments at its ambulatory care and primary care centers, and that its pharmacy and urgent care centers would close at 3 p.m. Friday. Emergency rooms at all of its facilities — including the flagship Jackson Memorial Hospital, Jackson North Medical Center in North Miami Beach and Jackson South Community Hospital in South Miami-Dade — will remain open.

Mount Sinai Medical Center, whose main campus is located on Miami Beach, said as of Thursday morning that it would not evacuate patients or essential staff. The center’s emergency centers in Miami Beach and Aventura also plan to remain open, said center president and CEO Steven D. Sonenreich.

“It is important to note that Mount Sinai is not a public shelter and once we are under a Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch, only persons with medical emergencies, third-trimester maternity patients and individuals with special needs previously assigned to Mount Sinai will be accepted,” he said.

Not all hospitals are staying open. Mercy Hospital in Miami, which is operated by Hospital Corporation of America, began evacuating more than 200 patients to other HCA East Florida facilities Wednesday and closed its emergency room in a “precautionary measure,” it said in a statement.

Other HCA hospitals, including Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, said they are remaining open to care for patients and storm victims.

Tenet Healthcare, which operates Coral Gables Hospital, Hialeah Hospital, North Shore Medical Center in Miami and Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah, said it was following directions from the county and taking operations “day by day,” according to spokeswoman Shelly Weiss.

“If people can postpone an elective procedure, that would make the most sense,” Weiss said. She added that some people had already arrived in some of Tenet’s hospitals with injuries from putting up shutters and urged people to prepare for the storm. “Hospitals are not shelters” and people should make arrangements as quickly as possible for where they will ride out the hurricane, she said.

The University of Miami Health System closed its ambulatory clinics and canceled outpatient services ahead of the storm, though dialysis and cancer treatments continued through Friday. Its hospitals are scheduled to remain open.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital held its last scheduled surgeries Thursday and canceled future minor procedures and elective surgeries.

In Broward, Memorial Healthcare System said its hospitals remain open for emergency services but canceled events and seminars scheduled through the weekend. Broward Health spokeswoman Danielle Aird said its emergency rooms and trauma centers also plan to remain open through the storm.

Cleveland Clinic Florida closed its medical offices in Broward and Palm Beach counties through Monday, though its emergency department in Weston will remain open.

Baptist Health said Friday all of its hospitals and centers are expected to keep normal hours and that its emergency rooms will remain open. After a hurricane warning was issued Thursday night, Baptist Health opened shelters for women who are at least 36 weeks pregnant or at high-risk according to their doctor.

Its Monroe County hospitals, however, were closed after the Keys issued a mandatory evacuation order for visitors on Wednesday and residents on Thursday.

Jennifer Pages, the manager of marketing and communications for Fishermen’s Community Hospital and Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, told the Keynoter that it had started canceling patient appointments and elective surgeries earlier in the week.

Fishermen’s Hospital in Marathon and Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, both 25-bed critical access hospitals, closed Thursday. Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West, a 167-bed facility, was evacuated with help from the North Carolina National Guard and shut its doors on 7 a.m. Friday, according to the county.

The Keys hospitals will not reopen until the storm passes and evacuated staffers can return to work, the county said in a statement.

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