How Florida Hospitals Are Preparing for Hurricane Matthew

PHOTO: An ambulance leaves the Baptist Medical Center Beaches as patients are evacuated because of Hurricane Matthew, Oct. 5, in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.PlayWill Dickey/The Florida Times-Union/AP Photo
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Hospitals up and down Florida's Atlantic coast are getting ready for a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew by implementing emergency measures and, in some cases, evacuating patients.

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At least two hospitals in Jacksonville, Florida, have evacuated patients, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Baptist Medical Center Nassau and Baptist Medical Center Beaches in Jacksonville finished evacuating patients to nearby hospitals this morning.

Cindy Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Baptist Health System, said three Baptist hospitals would remain open, including a children's hospital and three free-standing emergency rooms, to deal with people injured during the storm. Members of the hospital's Planned Emergency Response Team, including doctors and other medical staff, have volunteered to treat patients both during the storm and immediately after.

"One team stays before and during the storm," Hamilton said, noting that when the first team comes home "then the B team comes in" to relieve them.

Hamilton said the B team can stay at a shelter or their home if it's not in an evacuated area.

"They get their home ready [for the storm] and as soon as they hear the word, they come back in," she told ABC News.

At the University of Miami Hospital, CEO Michael Gittelman said the hospital had 290 patients in a building that has the potential to treat patients in 600 hospital beds.

Gittelman said he was especially reassured after he had talked to one longtime hospital employee today.

"She'd been through four hurricanes here," said Gittelman, who also pointed out the windows had been fitted with impact glass. "That makes me feel good about the building."

The hospital also has a hurricane preparedness team that has been prepping for the hospital to remain self-sufficient in case authorities or other back-up services can't reach them for days, according to University of Miami Hospital Chief Operating Officer Kymberlee Manni.

"Typically, we plan for five to seven days if we have to shelter in place," Manni said. "We planned for the absolute maximum impact on this one."

Manni said the hospital also has agreements with fuel and other supply companies that when roads are clear again they and other medical centers will be the first stop, meaning they can quickly replenish supplies after the storm.

"Because of prior planning, we know exactly what we need," said Manni, explaining they are able to send a list of needed supplies before the storm even arrives.

Once the storm hits, Manni said lacerations and other injuries from debris are common. Additionally, the stress of the storm can put other people at risk for major health events.

"Anytime you get people get stressed, the risk of heart attack and stroke go up," she explained.

Staff working during the storm are encouraged to bring spouses, children or even pets to the hospital's conference center so that they know their family is safe as they work.

"When staff and physicians are working, they don't have to worry about what's going on at home," Gittelman explained.