Bascom Palmer post Irma

by Beth A. Beilein, RN, BSN, MSM, CNOR

It’s been about eight weeks since Hurricane Irma. Many of the challenges faced in the healthcare arena are still very fresh in our minds. Perhaps, it’s the scars left behind from the trauma or the reminders that still linger around every corner.
Here at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at Naples the preparation and clean up were quite intense. Looking back, the preparation was easy. Everything that could be moved to an interior corridor was moved. Items that could not be moved were all covered with plastic. Electrical equipment was unplugged from the outlets. Medical equipment that needed to remain with power were verified to be plugged into the red (emergency power) outlets.

Conference calls began the Tuesday before the storm to make sure all aspects of our patients care and facility were taken care of. These continued daily for two weeks. All patients were called and cancelled or rescheduled as it was determined that they could not be seen on their scheduled appointment. When we lost power, our generator kicked on and preserved all critical items that were plugged into the emergency outlets. This was especially important for the refrigerators housing medications, supplies and implants. The generator fuel began to run low three days into the storm aftermath. The University of Miami helped by sending fuel and the fuel pump, but to no avail. The facility lost all power for five days. With the temperatures in the facility reaching 106 degrees and the humidity in the 90’s, the sterility of all sterile items and medications was compromised.

When power was restored nine days after the storm, the staff returned to work. The huge task began to list all supplies by
vendor, and item number and quantity. Once the inventory was complete, we segregated these supplies and medications for review by FEMA and then destruction. We reordered all new supplies and medications The clinic began seeing patients two days after the staff returned to work, on a limited basis and at full capacity the next week. One week to the day after the staff returned to Bascom Palmer the Ambulatory Surgery Center was up and running at full capacity.

It was a huge task, but with the teamwork that ensued, the job was done and done properly. The teamwork was tremendous. We welcomed our patients back to the same quality of care they received before Irma’s visit.

Much is taken for granted in our daily lives, but it is something like Hurricane Irma that keeps our feet firmly planted on the ground. We were fortunate that we were able to provide the high level of care to our patients shortly after the storm as we were providing prior to the storm. Other businesses were less fortunate and still aren’t open or will not be opening again.

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