A look at how children's hospitals prepared for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
After a major hurricane hit the U.S. last week and another storm forecasted to make landfall this weekend, children's hospitals across the country are in recovery or preparation mode as they work to ensure care for some of the nation's most fragile patients remains uninterrupted.
When Hurricane Harvey hit, it affected more than five Texas children's hospitals. Hurricane Irma could move toward the Florida Keys and as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, potentially putting more than 20 children's hospitals in the path of the storm or at risk of damage from tropical force winds.
Preparations underway for Hurricane Irma
While it is too early to tell where Hurricane Irma will make landfall, Florida hospitals are making preparations now. For example, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, part of the Orlando Health System, is activating its Action Phase 1 plan, which includes:
- Checking quantities and ordering medical supplies, food, fuel, batteries, water, plywood and sandbags
- Ensuring back-up communication and power resources are identified and operational
- Identifying storage locations for loose signage
- Determining dates and times to stop certain activities including valet parking and construction projects
- Identifying contractors in case immediate repairs are required post-Irma
- Communicating with insurance adjuster and property insurance providers
- Identifying availability of 2,700 Hospital Emergency Response Team members across the system
- Making arrangements to relocate helicopters and roof-top communication center if needed
Working together during Hurricane Harvey
These weather events also affect children's hospitals in surrounding cities that are not in the direct path of the storms. Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, contacted Cook Children's in Fort Worth and Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin for help evacuating the most vulnerable patients from its NICU. Transport teams from Children's Health in Dallas, Cook Children's and Dell Children's worked through the night—more than 18 hours—to safely transport each patient.
While the babies arrived in a dramatic way because of the extraordinary nature of the hurricane and the transport teams working together, Sheralyn Hartline, RN, director of the NICU at Cook Children's says it was business as usual. "Once they arrived, our NICU staff was in their comfort zone taking care of these babies," she says. "Everyone who works in the NICU is prepared and trained for occasions like this."
Cook Children's and Dell Children's are beginning the process of transporting patients back to their home cities, but some may may remain in Fort Worth and Austin until it is safe for them to return home.
The Children's Hospital of San Antonio also received critically ill infants from a sister hospital. Thirteen infants were evacuated before Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast.
To ensure patients with chronic conditions continue to receive treatments they need during this time, staff members at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children's Medical Center in Temple, Texas, organized efforts to help children in flooded cities who have diabetes and need insulin. Team members packed up the necessary syringes, blood sugar monitors and insulin pumps for delivery in the hardest hit areas of the state.
For children's hospitals in the paths of these storms, taking extraordinary measures to continue providing the best care to kids is just another day's work.
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