Healthcare facilities in the Fort Myers, Florida, area were still struggling Sunday with the loss of running water and power in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, the head of the Florida Hospital Association said.
The group's CEO, Mary Mayhew, told National Public Radio that some of the 900 patients at five of the hardest-hit hospitals in that area were transferred to other facilities. Four of the hospitals have had power restored; one still lacks water, and the other four are dealing with water pressure issues.
In addition, thousands of patients were evacuated from nursing homes and assisted living facilities in southwest Florida, Mayhew said. Hospitals that closed in Charlotte County, adjacent to Fort Myers, are urgently working to reopen, she added.
The storm made landfall near Fort Myers as a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday, forging a path of destruction across southwest and central Florida before making its way up the East Coast and battering the Carolinas after a second landfall on Friday.
At HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte, the storm surge flooded the lower-level emergency room, and winds tore off part of the fourth-floor roof of the intensive care unit, the Associated Press reported.
At least 76 people in Florida and four in North Carolina have died due to the storm, while more than 689,000 homes and businesses remained without power in Florida as of Sunday evening, CNN reported. More than 400,000 power outages were reported in the Carolinas, according to the Weather Channel.
Larry Antonucci, CEO of Lee Health, said that while the Fort Myers area health systems weathered the storm intact, the company made the difficult decision to evacuate patients from three hospitals that did not have running water. Lee Health operates a total of four acute care hospitals, two specialty hospitals and three skilled nursing units in Lee County.
"We've been faced with an unprecedented challenge with this hurricane. It caused devastation throughout our community, and it's putting incredible strain on our health system," Antonucci said in a video posted to Facebook.
However, Lee Health’s emergency departments remained open, and on Sunday, the hospital operator said it planned to add disaster medical assistance teams at three of its facilities to supplement its emergency services. Some of its outpatient locations were scheduled to be open Monday, with the majority of its sites expected to be operational by the end of the week.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday said the state was distributing diesel to power water plants in Lee County that supply hospitals and was trucking in 1.2 million gallons of water from Lakeland to Fort Myers to support hospitals without potable water.
Healthcare facility evacuations were ongoing, the governor's office said. Since Hurricane Ian made landfall, 642 patients have been evacuated from six facilities in Charlotte, Lee, Sarasota, Orange and Volusia counties because the facilities cannot safely operate due to infrastructure damage.
Several facilities in the state are on generator power, and 345 facilities have had power restored. As of Sunday, 12 healthcare facilities that had evacuated patients have returned them and are operational, the state said.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden plan to travel to Puerto Rico on Monday and Florida on Wednesday to tour the hurricane damage.