As southeast Georgia residents battened down the proverbial hatches and prepared to evacuate in preparation for Hurricane Matthew, there was one group of coastal residents that required more than the usual advance planning before they could leave. That would be the patients at local hospitals that needed special care as they were transported elsewhere, and appropriate facilities elsewhere where they could stay before returning. Georgia Health News describes both the evacuation efforts and the preparations to return.
In Brunswick and St. Mary’s, almost 200 patients at hospitals run by Southeast Georgia Health System were relocated my medical transport or air to receiving hospitals in Macon, Albany and Augusta. Another 200 long term care patients were transferred to Valdosta. The hospitals were able to reopen their emergency rooms after the storm passed Saturday evening, however the relocated patients will be returned beginning on Wednesday. Once the emergency rooms reopened, the hospitals continued to be plagued by logistical issues, including that many of the hospital personnel lived on St. Simons, which remained closed to residents through noon today.
According to Patrick O’Neal, director of health protection for the state Department of Public Health, it may be the end of the week before everything is restored to normal at coastal hospitals. While there is great pressure to bring people back to the area, O’Neal said that doesn’t make sense if facilities aren’t prepared to take them back. O’Neal praised the state’s hospitals and emergency transport providers for their willingness to take patients, but he also credited the disaster plans of state agencies for making the process smooth. “By and large,” O’Neal said, “the plans worked beautifully.”