FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hurricane Ian has created a rising biohazard scenario in a minimum of one Florida hospital close to the place the storm first made landfall.
Employees at Well being Park Medical Heart in Fort Myers instructed NBC Information that the power’s operating water was shut off Wednesday and has not but been restored. If water service would not return quickly, employees stated, they concern outbreaks of illness and an infection within the aftermath of the storm.
Each sufferers and nurses have been pressured to defecate in plastic luggage after which retailer the waste in overflowing biowaste containers, workers and sufferers stated.
Staff stated they’re unable to correctly disinfect medical devices for reuse, and a few sufferers have gone greater than a dozen hours with out consuming water.
Particulars of the water reduce and its aftermath have been confirmed by 4 workers members, who requested to not be recognized for concern of jeopardizing their jobs, in addition to three sufferers.
“With out the water, we will not flush our bathrooms,” stated an operational assistant. “We will not wash our arms. It is form of gross, however we’ve to do what we’ve to do.”
Each sufferers and workers have been pressured to urinate in containers which are then thrown down the drain, aides stated.
“If we’ve to poop, we’ll bag it and put it in our biohazard bins,” the aide stated. “If somebody by chance places rest room paper or poops in the bathroom, our poor housewives have to return and get it out to allow them to dump a bucket of water and attempt to flush it.”
Lee Well being, the hospital’s major community, stated Friday that its services and workers have confronted quite a few challenges whereas working since Ian made landfall.
“The precautions we took have been mandatory as a result of lack of operating water in our group. We guarantee our sufferers and our workers that the actions we’ve taken in the present day tackle these challenges, which have been the results of a catastrophe and infrastructure failure of this magnitude. Lee Well being is dedicated to its sufferers, workers and group and can do no matter it takes to make sure secure, high quality take care of our sufferers and our groups,” stated Mary Briggs, a spokeswoman for Lee Well being, in a press release.
Some workers members stated they did not blame Lee Well being for the scenario, saying the power was already offered out on account of Covid. Including a hurricane, which knocked out all the county’s water provide, into the combination introduced the hospital’s infrastructure and assets to breaking level.
Well being Park Medical Heart was certainly one of a minimum of 9 hospitals in Florida recognized to have misplaced entry to operating water as of Thursday.
Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday simply east of Fort Myers as a Class four hurricane with sustained winds of as much as 150 mph. It has triggered widespread energy and sanitation outages. Not less than 23 individuals have died in Florida as a result of storm, authorities confirmed Friday night time.
Well being Park Medical Heart started evacuating sufferers most in danger Thursday, by ambulance and helicopter.
“They’re airlifting youngsters and hospice sufferers as a result of there is no such thing as a water,” stated a affected person named Roberta Hines, who was handled on the hospital after being injured in a fall. Hines, 63, spoke to an NBC Information reporter as she left the power Friday for a cigarette. As she spoke, helicopters may very well be seen touchdown and taking off from the hospital.
The operational assistant stated ambulances from 10 counties have arrived to assist transport sufferers.
“The feat everybody has gone to is simply wonderful,” they stated.
With out operating water, medical doctors’ potential to carry out operations has been compromised. Nevertheless, the second assistant stated, a number of emergency surgical procedures have needed to be finished for the reason that water went out.
“We will not wash our arms correctly to function on sufferers,” stated the primary attendee. “We now have no technique to sterilize our instrumentation for surgical procedure, which suggests no matter instrumentation we’ve we’ve to make it final as a result of we will not reuse it on sufferers.”
A affected person named Michelle, who declined to provide her final identify, stated she was taken to the Well being Park after the storm as a result of she was hit by a chunk of wooden.
“Since then, circumstances have worsened,” he stated, the bandages on his forearms seen. “Not solely cannot you employ the bathrooms, however they’re operating out of meals and water. It is only one factor on prime of one other.”
Affected person Dan Culligan, 70, spent a few days within the hospital on account of persistent again ache after surgical procedure and spoke within the hospital parking zone whereas ready to be transported to a shelter.
“I felt trapped,” he stated.
The second operational assistant, a longtime Florida resident who lived by Hurricane Andrew and several other different main storms, stated the scenario on the hospital “is in contrast to something I’ve ever skilled.”
As Ian’s winds intensified, hospital employees stated they moved sufferers into hallways for security and moved them to larger flooring from floor stage.
“They have been accepting EMS sufferers till the winds hit 80 miles per hour,” stated the primary attendant. “And as soon as that occurred, we could not open our doorways as a result of they risked compromising the integrity of the hospital.”
Since then, the hospital has resumed receiving some sufferers, regardless of the water reduce.
The primary assistant stated the hospital parking zone was flooded within the storm.
“We noticed our automobiles floating sideways… My automobile is wrecked,” they stated.
After the facility went out, the 2 aides stated, the hospital was pressured to depend on a generator and select between operating the water or air con. The directors selected the AC. The generator requires water to run, so a water truck on the hospital retains it operating, a surgical technician instructed NBC Information.
After sufferers have been pressured to go hours with out consuming water, the primary attendee stated, “we ended up giving them the bottled water that we had in our luggage that we introduced.”
Then the pink biohazard luggage started to build up with waste and excrement inside, and individuals who wanted to defecate have been herded into particular bathrooms “so we are able to attempt to comprise the odor,” the aide stated.
However by the top of the day on Friday, the surgical technologist stated, the transportable bathrooms had arrived on the hospital.
Deon J. Hampton reported from Fort Myers, Kalhan Rosenblatt, Aria Bendix, and Corky Siemaszko from New York Metropolis.