FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hurricane Ian has created a burgeoning biohazard state of affairs in at the very least one Florida hospital near the place the storm first made landfall.
Staffers on the Well being Park Medical Heart in Fort Myers instructed NBC Information that the ability’s working water went out Wednesday and hasn’t but been restored. If water service is not again quickly, the employees mentioned, they worry illness outbreaks and infections within the wake of the storm.
Sufferers and nurses alike have been pressured to defecate in plastic baggage, then retailer the waste in overflowing biohazard bins, staffers and sufferers mentioned.
Staff mentioned they can not correctly sanitize medical devices for reuse, and a few sufferers went over a dozen hours with out consuming any water.
Particulars of the water outage and its penalties have been confirmed by 4 staffers, who all requested to not be recognized by identify for worry of jeopardizing their employment, in addition to three sufferers.
“With out the water, we are able to’t flush our bogs,” mentioned an operative assistant. “We will’t wash our palms. It’s form of disgusting, however we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”
Sufferers and staffers alike have been pressured to urinate in containers which might be then dumped down the drain, the assistants mentioned.
“If we’ve got to poop, we’re pooping in a bag and placing it in our biohazard bins,” the assistant mentioned. “If on accident somebody places bathroom paper or will get poop in the bathroom, our poor housekeepers have to come back and scoop it out in order that they will dump a bucket of water all the way down to attempt to get it to flush.”
Lee Well being, the hospital’s dad or mum community, mentioned Friday that its services and workers have confronted quite a few challenges whereas working since Ian made landfall.
“The precautions we took have been essential as a result of lack of working water in our group. We guarantee our sufferers and our workers that the actions we’ve got taken at the moment handle these challenges, which have been a results of a catastrophe and infrastructure failure of this magnitude. Lee Well being is dedicated to its sufferers, workers and group, and can do every little thing essential to make sure protected and high quality look after our sufferers and our groups,” Mary Briggs, spokesperson for Lee Well being, mentioned in a press release.
Some workers members mentioned that they did not blame Lee Well being for the state of affairs, saying the ability had already been stretched skinny because of Covid. Including a hurricane, which knocked out the water provide to your complete county, to the combination pushed the hospital’s infrastructure and assets to a breaking level.
Well being Park Medical Heart was one in all at the very least 9 hospitals in Florida recognized to have misplaced entry to working water as of Thursday.
Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday simply east of Fort Myers, as a Class 4 hurricane with sustained winds as much as 150 mph. It has triggered widespread energy and sanitary outages. A minimum of 23 folks have died in Florida as a result of storm, officers confirmed Friday evening.
Well being Park Medical Heart started evacuating sufferers on the highest threat on Thursday, by way of ambulance and helicopter.
“They’re airlifting children and hospice sufferers out as a result of there’s no water,” mentioned a affected person named Roberta Hines, who was handled on the hospital after she harm herself in a fall. Hines, 63, spoke with an NBC Information reporter when she got here exterior the ability on Friday to smoke a cigarette. As she spoke, helicopters could possibly be seen touchdown and taking off from the hospital.
The operative assistant mentioned ambulances from 10 counties have come to assist transport sufferers.
“The feat that everyone has gone to is simply wonderful,” they mentioned.
With out working water, docs’ skills to carry out operations have been compromised. Nonetheless, the second assistant mentioned, a number of emergency surgical procedures have needed to be executed because the water went out.
“We can not correctly wash our palms to function on sufferers,” the primary assistant mentioned. “We have now no approach to sterilize our instrumentation for surgical procedure, in order that signifies that no matter instrumentation we’ve got we’ve got to make final as a result of we are able to’t reuse it on sufferers.”
A affected person named Michelle, who declined to provide her final identify, mentioned she was taken to Well being Park after the storm struck as a result of she obtained hit by a chunk of wooden.
“Since then the situations have worsened,” she mentioned, the bandages on her forearms seen. “Not solely are you able to not use the loos, they’re working out of meals in addition to water. It’s only one factor on high of one other.”
Affected person Dan Culligan, 70, spent a few days within the hospital because of lingering again ache after surgical procedure and spoke within the hospital car parking zone whereas ready to be transported to a shelter.
“I felt caught,” he mentioned.
The second operative assistant, a longtime Florida resident who went by way of Hurricane Andrew and a number of other different huge storms, mentioned the state of affairs on the hospital is “nothing like I’ve ever skilled.”
As Ian’s winds intensified, the hospital employees mentioned they moved sufferers into the hallways for security and introduced sufferers as much as increased flooring from the bottom degree.
“They have been accepting sufferers by EMS till winds reached 80 miles per hour,” the primary assistant mentioned. “And as soon as that occurred, we couldn’t open our doorways as a result of they risked compromising the integrity of the hospital.”
The hospital has since resumed taking some sufferers, regardless of the water outage.
The primary assistant mentioned the hospital’s car parking zone flooded within the storm.
“We noticed our automobiles floating sideways … My automobile is totaled,” they mentioned.
After the facility went down, the 2 assistants mentioned, the hospital was pressured to depend on a generator and to decide on between working the water or the AC. Directors selected the AC. The generator requires water with the intention to perform, so a water truck on the hospital is preserving it working, a surgical technician instructed NBC Information.
After sufferers have been pressured to go with out consuming water for hours, the primary assistant mentioned, “we ended up giving them the bottled water that we had in our baggage that we introduced.”
Then the purple biohazard baggage started piling up with waste and excrement inside, and individuals who wanted to defecate have been steered to particular loos “so we are able to attempt to comprise the scent,” the assistant mentioned.
However by the top of the day on Friday, the surgical technologist mentioned, port-o-potties had arrived on the hospital.
Deon J. Hampton reported from Fort Myers, Kalhan Rosenblatt, Aria Bendix and Corky Siemaszko from New York Metropolis.