How are Midlands hospitals preparing for Hurricane Florence?

SC Gov. Henry McMaster warns of high flood risk of Hurricane Florence

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster says to get to higher ground if you live in flood areas as Hurricane Florence approaches in a press conference September 12, 2018.
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South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster says to get to higher ground if you live in flood areas as Hurricane Florence approaches in a press conference September 12, 2018.

Columbia-area hospitals have taken in evacuated patients from the South Carolina coast and are stocking up on emergency supplies as Hurricane Florence approaches the Palmetto State.

Palmetto Health Richland hospital is prepared to run up to 10 days on generator power if necessary, said Jay Hamm, the hospital’s chief operating officer.

The hospital has a six-day cache of extra food and medical supplies on hand in case supplies are unable to be delivered during and after Florence’s impact, and 130,000 gallons of water and 20 tons of ice are ready to mobilize to the hospital within hours if needed, Hamm said.

Richland already has received 13 patients evacuated from coastal S.C. hospitals as of Wednesday afternoon and expected at least six more, Hamm said.

The entire Palmetto Health system, which includes four hospitals in Columbia and Sumter, has plans to increase staffing — including providing childcare and room for employees to sleep on site in case transportation becomes an issue — in anticipation of a possible surge in patients, said Dr. Steve Shelton, Palmetto Health’s medical director for emergency preparedness.

Many elective procedures — that is, surgeries and procedures that are not life-saving or immediately time-sensitive — that are scheduled for late this week likely will be rescheduled, Shelton said.

“Our goal is to continue doing what we do, which is take care of the folks of South Carolina,” Shelton said.

The hospitals are preparing to possibly assist with coastal hospitals’ and evacuees’ needs for the foreseeable future, depending on Florence’s eventual impact.

“Depending on what happens, after the storm will probably be the busiest time, as people get out and about,” Hamm said. “With this storm, anything’s possible, so we’re trying to be flexible and adapt to the changing situation.”

At nearby Lexington Medical Center, enough water is stored on site to supply the 438-bed hospital for two to four days, said Josh Angle, the hospital’s emergency management coordinator. That supply includes drinking water, cleaning water and water for other uses.

When the hospital was accredited, it was required to be self-sustaining for at least 96 hours “post-incident.” Angle said Lexington Medical is at that level “and then some.”

The hospital has enough generator power and fuel to keep the hospital running if the power goes out. Typically, the facility will start running generator power simultaneously with electricity so as to avoid any “blips” in the power supply if the power goes out.

“We really have no concerns other than the actual event,” Angle said.

Angle said the main Lexington Medical campus in West Columbia has not received any patients evacuated from the east coast of South Carolina, but its assisted living facility in Lexington has taken in about 15 patients from the coast.

Lexington Medical also has activated its special medical needs shelter within the hospital to provide shelter for at-risk members of the community who have sought services from the Department of Health and Environmental Control during past natural disasters, as well as their caretakers.

“The hospital is ready,” Angle said.
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