When Hurricane Hermine hit southern Florida on Aug. 31, 2016, the physicians and staff at Bayonet Point Regional Medical Center, just north of Tampa, Fla., did what they always do: provide outstanding patient care, even in the most challenging of circumstances.
Although the facility was ready for any hurricane-related inci-dents and had an evacuation plan in place thanks to well-rehearsed safety and security protocols, it wasn’t storm waters that forced a patient relocation. Rather, lightning began a roof fi re, which in turn knocked out the facility’s power and required a full evacuation.
Every U.S. hospital is required by the Joint Commission to have an evacuation policy, and from 1971 to 1999, 275 hospitals have been evacuated — 29 in Florida. At Bayonet Point, the evacuation was triggered when the lightning damaged the pathway of not only the regular electrical connections, but also those of the backup generators. Of the 225 patients evacuated, 40 were in intensive care units, and required special attention including the use of portable ventilators. More than 150 patients were transferred to 13 other hospitals, nursing homes and treatment facilities, and 59 were discharged. All this had to be done with no power while using flashlights and cellphones.
Hospital staff worked with local first responders, emergency management officials and other community partners to make the evacuation happen quickly and safely, says Kate Patterson, area practice manager for the Pasco-Hernando Markets for HCA’s Physician Services Group.
“Bayonet Point Trauma, a team of four trauma surgeons and five mid-level assistants, worked nonstop make sure all of the patients were cared for, especially the critical care patients,” she says. “They were in and out of ambulances assisting with the transport of these patients. They made sure each patient was stable and properly transported to appropriate facilities in the area. They did not bat an eye as to what time it was, or when they last ate.”
Hospital CEO Shayne George adds that the entire Bayonet Point staff leaped into action with no notice at all, showcasing just how strong its preparation and experience are during disasters.
“The event resulted in a complete electrical utility loss and forced full facility evacuation,” George says. “Through unified command between hospital and emergency services leadership, it resulted in a controlled disaster. We have the deepest appreciation for our staff, first responders, HCA and the other community and government resources that sup-ported the successful total evacuation of more than 200 patients without incident within a six-hour timeframe.”
Not only was Bayonet Point evacuated safely, it also was able to recover from the damage and reopen within five days at 100 percent capacity, George adds.