In the early morning hours on Oct. 5, Dr. Dean Dalili, Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs, Hospital Medicine at SCP, was well aware that Hurricane Matthew was barreling down on the Florida coast and that Wuesthoff Medical Center Rockledge was in its path. 

“Working with hospital administration, our original plan was to assemble a hurricane emergency team of clinicians who could stay at the hospital for the next 24-36 hours, not really knowing what we would face or how bad the storm would be,” explained Dr. Dalili. But by the next day, Floridians were alerted that Matthew had strengthened to a Category 4 storm, with the eye headed straight for Cocoa Beach. “We were 36 hours from landfall, and our facility is classified to withstand Category 3 storms. But at this strength, we knew we had to evacuate.” 

Taking Action

With the combined efforts of leadership, other physicians, clinicians, and staff, Wuesthoff Medical Center Rockledge put into action its well-rehearsed evacuation plan. Wuesthoff Rockledge also worked closely with local EMS agencies and four sister facilities before beginning the transfer of 158 patients, including 24 in ICU. Wuesthoff Medical Center Melbourne admitted over 45 patients from Rockledge. As Dr. Dalili explained, it took dramatic efforts from departments across the group hospitals to implement and flex providers to them. They had to quickly accommodate for surge staffing and address challenges like security badge admissions, IT logins, EHR access, and more -- things many don’t think about when in an emergency situation. And then, post-storm, the team had to address the challenges of reopening the facility, patient readmissions, and the transfer of information. For a system that became an SCP contract just 3 months ago, this was an incredible feat for the newly oriented group of hospitalists. 

“Our providers faced a lot of emotions while balancing the safety aspect, evacuations, and relief efforts. True life and limb are put at risk when you stay at a facility in a storm, and all the while, you’re thinking about your own family and home. Every patient was transferred safely out of the hospital, which is remarkable considering the high level of patient acuity, and our providers effectively managed the situation while working with multiple stakeholders, all while remaining true to providing excellent care and customer service. This was an enormous challenge, but I’m very proud of how our team responded,” added Dr. Dalili, “We worked diligently to ensure all patients arrived at their destination safely and without incident.”

Ensuring Continued Quality Service

With many SCP providers and medical leadership in Florida coping with Hurricane Matthew, and our Hollywood office evacuating for the storm, several of our virtual medical scribes physically relocated to our Lafayette, LA headquarters.

“The SCP operations teams were in full hurricane management mode, to not only include supporting our client hospitals and providers who were in the path of Matthew, but also keeping our team members safe while still managing business,” explained Rita Roberts, SCP Division Chief Operations Officer. “The temporary relocation of our Medical Scribes (V-Scribes) to the Lafayette office from Florida helped keep our providers supported, especially during a difficult time when they needed the help most.”

Other applications, like our hurricane tracking system on our provider portal, came in handy for the teams. The operations tool, much like an interactive Google map, shows you credentialed providers as you hover over a location. For a circumstance like this, the tool helps to quickly fill shifts by finding available, credentialed providers, directly in the vicinity of the affected facilities.

Conclusion and Reminder 

“In the middle of a storm, you have little time to think,” explained Dr. Dalili. “Participating in the evacuation of a 300-bed hospital, canceling surgeries, moving providers -- there are vast clinical implications. When it happens to you, you just have to be prepared. We’re thankful our area was spared from serious damage, and continue to think of those who might be facing difficulties after the storm.” 

While peak season is traditionally experienced from mid-August to late October, it’s never a bad time to proactively prepare for natural disasters. Take a moment to review these resources from the National Weather Service Hurricane Center to ensure safety for your family and your workplace.