Many Health Facilities on Florida’s East Coast Choose to Evacuate Patients as Dorian Closes in


Baptist Medical Center Beaches moved patients away from the water

Baptist Medical Center Beaches moved patients away from the water

Florida officials said Monday that 72 nursing homes and assisted living facilities and seven hospitals on the state’s East Coast had been evacuated in preparation for Hurricane Dorian.

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew told reporters that only four of the long-term care facilities were evacuated because they didn’t have emergency generators and access to backup power as required by law.

“They are making a determination based upon their buildings’ ability to withstand a Category 5 (hurricane), whether they are in the surge zone. So that is separate and apart from the generator,” Mayhew said.

Hurricane Dorian was a Category 4 storm Monday with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph as it pounded the Bahamas. The slow-moving storm was earlier predicted to make landfall in Florida, but the latest forecasts have Hurricane Dorian hugging the coast and avoiding direct landfall in Florida.

Nevertheless, mandatory evacuations have been ordered along many parts of the coast, as officials warn of storm surge, damaging winds and power outages.

Evacuating the nursing homes and assisted living facilities means that residents must be transferred to different locations. Mayhew didn’t directly answer whether any nursing home and ALF residents were being transferred to emergency shelters or special-needs shelters.

She said those decisions were not being made in Tallahassee.

“All of this is local. All of the coordination and the decision-making around evacuations are local,” she said. “Patient safety, our requirements, our expectations around patient safety, remain intact.”

After residents of a Broward County nursing home died following Hurricane Irma in 2017, the state put in place backup-power requirements for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died after Irma knocked out the facility’s air-conditioning system, creating sweltering conditions.

Florida has 84,078 nursing home beds, with more than half — 46,255 beds — in facilities that have requested, and been granted, additional time to meet the backup power mandate.

The state has 106,254 ALF beds, with nearly 86 percent in facilities that have met the generator requirement. Facilities with 7,301 beds have requested and been given additional time to meet the requirement. But the state has another 7,762 beds in facilities without generators and without an approved “variance.”

The seven hospitals that had been evacuated were AdventHealth New Smyrna Beach, Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital, Cleveland Clinic South in Martin County, Port St. Lucie Hospital, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Palm Beach County, Stuart Sebastian River Medical Center and the Halifax Psychiatric Center North in Volusia County.

Moreover, Cleveland Clinic North partially evacuated its patients.