While the Gainesville area was spared a direct hit from Hurricane Michael, UF Health played a vital role in the disaster response.
On Oct. 11, UF Health Shands Hospital received its first patients from storm-damaged hospitals in the Panhandle. By 4 p.m. that day, 19 patients had been brought in by ambulance and plans were in place to receive more in the next 24 hours.
The arriving patients were first brought to the emergency room with plans for rapid admission to hospital rooms, said Brandon Allen, M.D., medical director of the UF Health Shands E.R. and an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of emergency medicine. Several additional physicians were brought in to the emergency room to help expedite admissions.
“We had great collaboration with admissions and our other hospital services. We were ready to take on whatever came to us,” Allen said.
Wendy Swan, M.S.N., R.N., NE-BC, director of emergency services for UF Health Shands emergency departments, said additional emergency room and inpatient staff were brought in to help with patients arriving from Panhandle hospitals. A unit within the E.R. was set aside to screen those patients.
Before the storm hit, UF Health ShandsCair helicopters in the North Central Florida and Panhandle regions were repositioned for optimal response when the winds subsided. At dawn on Oct. 11, ShandsCair flight crews based in Gainesville, Perry and Milton were poised to take patients from storm-damaged hospitals to Pensacola and Gainesville, said Ed Crews, ShandsCair program director.
By mid-afternoon on Oct. 11, ShandsCair flight crews had transported six patients from Panhandle hospitals to other facilities and more flights occurred later in the day, he said. After all medical evacuations were completed, Crews said that ShandsCair flight crews then assisted with rescue operations involving storm victims.
ShandsCair’s role also involved more than the flight crews: Because communications systems in the region were damaged, ShandsCair’s medical transport regional aviation manager was called on to coordinate the entire air medical response from the state’s Emergency Operations Center. Our team’s leadership has been commended.
“UF Health is well-equipped to handle medical flight and patient care needs during hurricanes and other large-scale emergencies,” said Ed Jimenez, UF Health Shands CEO. “The hospital system trains regularly and has substantial experience handling such incidents.”
He added, “We recognize our statewide responsibility and are always available to jump into action and serve the needs of our state during crises.”
Following Hurricane Michael, our teams continued to care for patients in-house and are still supporting recovery efforts in the Panhandle.