- Hurricane Michael, the Category 4 storm that made landfall in the Florida Panhandle earlier this week, has forced Panama City's two largest hospitals to evacuate patients. Those hospitals, Bay Medical Sacred Heart and Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center, have a combined 561 beds.
- Most Florida nursing homes did not evacuate before the storm made landfall, but several have been damaged and have now begun moving patients out of their facilities. According to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, 35 hospitals or nursing homes in that state are out of power and running on generators.
- HHS said it has moved 400 medical and public health professionals into impacted areas, and has 300 more on alert from the National Disaster Medical System and the U.S. Public Heath Service Commissioned Corps.
Hurricane Michael is the most destructive hurricane to make landfall in the Panhandle, with winds at 155 mph winds and storm surges up to 14 feet. More than 500,000 people were urged to evacuate prior to landfall and, as of Thursday, the storm is responsible for at least six deaths.
Still, many health facilities decided on Wednesday to shelter in place. Evacuations began at most facilities on Thursday afternoon.
CMS is taking action by temporarily waiving or modifying certain Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP requirements, and the agency has announced it will be issuing waivers to "give healthcare providers, facilities, and suppliers the flexibility to provide continued access to care throughout this storm," Administrator Seema Verma said.
Additionally, those impacted by the storm who are seeking health plans have been made eligible for a special enrollment period.
Some hospitals, such as Bay Medical, have had problems getting supplies.
URGENT: Lynn Haven, FL police department, please allow the Sysco truck headed to Bay Medical with food and resources through the road block to deliver these needed supplies to the hospital. @BOCCPIO #HurricaneMichael— Bay Medical Sacred Heart (@baymedicalctr) October 11, 2018
In response, FDA has activated its Emergency Operations Center and has staff assessing facilities producing critical medical products to avoid shortages. The agency says that the goal is to quickly address issues by allowing temporary alternate facilities or by allowing temporary importations.
"We have been closely collaborating with state and federal partners to provide technical assistance and support and we will continue to do so over the coming weeks as we will continue to assess the damage from this dangerous storm. We already have taken initial steps to identify FDA-regulated facilities in areas in the storm's path and are closely monitoring its impact," Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
National Nurses United said in a statement it's deploying a number of nurse volunteers to Tallahassee, Florida, in conjunction with International Medical Corps. Several health information exchanges have anticipated the need to move patient records to areas where patients have been displaced by maintaining communication via an HIE collaborative.
Hurricanes regularly take a toll on hospitals and healthcare providers, as seen from recent storms such as Maria, Harvey and Florence.
Puerto Rico was left devastated long after Hurricane Maria subsided. One third of the more than 4,600 deaths attributed to the massive storm stemmed from delayed or interrupted healthcare services, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Carolinas are still reeling after Hurricane Florence made landfall last month.
A recent PwC report found that natural disasters cost U.S. hospitals nearly $200 billion in 2017. Those losses resulted from closures, damages, canceled appointments, revenue cycle disruptions and displaced workers and patients.