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Savannah hospitals prepared for hurricane season

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Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 4:02 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week. While the coming hurricane season has us thinking of what to do should a storm head our way, area hospitals have their plan down to a science as they deal with a vulnerable population during a pandemic.

“We stay in a constant state of readiness.”

Plans are already prepared for our three area hospitals a should a hurricane head towards the Coastal Empire. Memorial Health’s Heart and Vascular building is built to withstand a Category 4 hurricane and their staff is assembled.

“What we do normally begins about 120 hours out so there’s enough time to think out the process, the logistics and moving those individuals. Anytime we hear anything that is out there in the Atlantic we begin to monitor the situation,” said Jimmy Gordon, safety officer and emergency preparedness coordinator for Memorial Health.

In addition to working with state and local emergency management, the hospital has a leadership team who decides staffing levels, what patients need evacuated and more. Staff is assigned a specific team to respond before, during and after the storm.

The Medical Director of the Emergency Department says while fewer patients are in the hospital, staff needs are increased. {Dr. Jay Goldstein, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Memorial Health} “Unfortunately during hurricane times a lot of the industries and a lot of society shut down so we have to be prepared to be able to handle a lot more than we would normally handle from giving medication, from dialysis things of that nature, just because other centers are not available so it’s a difficult time as a healthcare provider and again the unfortunate circumstance is when people do not evacuate when they should evacuate and then it becomes a little bit more of a distress and we’re doing everything we can to kind of handle the circumstances,” Dr. Jay Goldstein said.

St Joseph’s/Candler Health System has two hospitals to think of during the storm. At Candler Hospital, they go down to reduced capacity while St. Joseph’s remains open for their acute care patients and the ER.

“With 4,000 co-workers and a very large medical staff in a robust community and we’re out across 33 counties we have a very detailed plan that is well educated and each year we go through it so that it’s muscle memory,” St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System Chief Operating Officer Kyle McCann said.

They too have assigned teams for hurricanes and work with EMA officials to be on high alert but act 48 hours out relying on their medical staff to make patient decisions. They say COVID will not change their plans that much, but it has better prepared them for emergencies.

“We’ve learned to be ready for the unexpected what are those disruptors that will be coming our way and our team again is sharper than ever, our relationships are very strong with all the supply chain and logistics companies out there that support us and coming off of this pandemic we’re in a better shape than we’ve ever been,” McCann said.

With a busy hurricane season forecasted, leaders know their plans inside and out and stand ready knowing anything can happen at any moment.

“We only need one storm to call it a disastrous year so we manage one event at a time and whatever that leads us is how we will respond,” Gordon said.

ER doctors say it is critical to be prepared with more than just water, food, and supplies. They say you also need to have medication for 30 days. And for those who have chronic conditions, they say it is important your evacuation plan accounts for your medical needs.

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