4 Tampa Bay hospitals evacuated as Idalia storm surge threatens

Four Tampa Bay hospitals have been evacuated and closed as hospital chains made final preparations for Hurricane Idalia on Tuesday.

About 60 patients were transported from AdventHealth North Pinellas in Tarpon Springs on Tuesday morning. With storm surge of 4 to 6 feet projected for Tampa Bay, hospital officials said the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our patients, visitors and team members.”

Three other Tampa Bay area hospitals were evacuated on Monday. Patients at HCA Florida Trinity West Hospital in New Port Richey and HCA Florida West Tampa Hospital were transferred by ambulances to other HCA facilities.

Patients were also ferried from HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital, the second straight year that the threat of a major storm has forced the hospital to close. The evacuation of the hospital was completed Tuesday, said HCA spokesperson Deb McKell. By Tuesday afternoon, 72 patients had been relocated from the three HCA hospitals. A patient reunification number has been set up at 844-482-4821.

Eight free-standing emergency rooms will also be closed during the storm since it would not be possible to transport patients who arrive needing immediate surgery, McKell said.

Across Tampa Bay, other hospital chains were also making final preparations for the storm that is forecast to make landfall as a major hurricane.

As the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, Tampa General Hospital will be the main destination for Hillsborough County first responders transporting patients who may be injured as Idalia passes.

But the hospital, located on Davis Islands, is in evacuation zone A, an area at high risk from flooding and storm surge damage. So for the second straight year, the hospital is deploying flood defenses designed to keep the hospital operational.

On Monday, maintenance crews began assembling an AquaFence, a water-impermeable barrier that stretches around the hospital campus. It is designed to withstand a storm surge of up to 15 feet above sea level.

“The health and safety of our patients, team members and our community is our highest priority,” said spokesperson Beth Hardy in an email. “Our team is actively monitoring and preparing for the impact of Idalia on the Tampa Bay area.”

Lower floors are equipped with submarine doors, 6-inch-thick metal barrier doors with inflatable bladders that create watertight seals below. The hospital’s electrical, air conditioning and other critical systems were relocated to floors 25 feet above ground.

Access to Davis Islands remains a concern if Tampa Bay is hit by major storm surge. By road, the area is only accessible by two bridges.

Several Florida hospitals had to deal with water inundation or had to be evacuated for Hurricane Ian last year. The lower floor of the emergency room at HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte suffered flooding during the storm and winds ripped part of the roof off its intensive care unit.

BayCare, which runs 16 local hospitals, said its emergency management team has been tracking the storm since the weekend and working to ensure each hospital is storm ready. The nonprofit routinely maintains surplus inventory during hurricane season to ensure it can continue to serve patients if supplies are disrupted, said spokesperson Mary Marandi.

AdventHealth, which owns 13 hospitals in its West Florida division, said it is now operating under emergency management procedures, which include ensuring there are adequate quantities of food, water, medication and supplies, and that there are alternate power sources at each hospital. Trees and debris are being removed from hospital campuses as needed, said spokesperson Lauren Rozyla.

The health firm is asking the public to remember that hospitals are not equipped or designed to serve as a public shelter during a storm.

The following free-standing emergency rooms will be closed during the storm:

  • TGH Brandon Emergency Center, 10740 Palm River Rd.

  • TGH Kennedy Emergency Center, 1301 W. Kennedy Blvd.

  • HCA Florida Lutz Emergency, 1430 Dale Mabry Hwy.

  • HCA Florida Clearwater Emergency, 2339 Gulf to Bay Blvd.

  • HCA Florida Lake Tarpon Emergency, 35750 US Hwy 19 N,, Palm Harbor

  • HCA Florida Central Tampa Emergency, 801 E Hillsborough Ave.

  • HCA Florida Citrus Park Emergency, 12922 Sheldon Rd., Tampa

  • HCA Florida New Tampa Emergency, 8951 Cypress Mnr Dr.

  • HCA Florida Riverview Emergency, 12530 US Hwy. 301

  • HCA Florida University Emergency, 5234 E Fowler Ave, Temple Terrace.

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