For Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Hurricane Irma provided a challenge before, during and after the storm as one of its rooms flooded and employees struggled through the storm conditions to continue treating patients.
Before Irma made it to South Florida, Bascom Palmer prepped by bringing in all essential personnel and their families to stay at the institute to ride out the storm, according to a press release. With more than 300 people in the hospital, Bascom Palmer’s emergency management team, along with the management team from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, met every 2 hours to monitor the situation as it unfolded.
As Irma pummeled Miami, the Mary and Edward Norton Library of Ophthalmology began taking on water, forcing doctors and staff to clear out books and protect those that could not be moved, especially those in the Dr. and Mrs. Ralph Kirsch Rare Book Room, the release said.
“Fortunately, we were able to keep the flow of water out of the room,” Eduardo C. Alfonso, MD, chairman of Bascom Palmer, said in the release. “Using generators we were able to bring in blowers and dehumidifiers to dry the air and remove moisture from the library.”
As the storm cleared, Bascom Palmer was left with water damage and leakage, but no damage affected clinical operations and the institute’s clinics reopened Sept. 14.
A volunteer team was sent to the Florida Keys, which was hit hard by Irma. Bascom Palmer’s team and its “Vision Van,” which carried much-needed medications, treated more than 40 patients, mostly first-responders who had eye infections or broken and missing glasses, the release said.
“Eye injuries are very common after a disaster, as are lost eyeglasses,” said Richard K. Lee, MD, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology, who was on the trip. “Restoring eye health is a priority, because when people can’t see, they are at high risk for other injuries, as their whole environment becomes unfamiliar.” It is also common for pharmacies to be closed, so people may run out of chronic eye medications or need antibiotics for eye injuries.
After returning from the Keys, the Vision Van team remobilized to assist at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Naples, Florida, which was directly hit by the hurricane.
While the facility was not damaged, power was out and communication was down.
“Overall, Bascom Palmer’s response to Hurricane Irma was a great experience in teamwork,” Joanne Martin, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer at the Miami facility, said in the release.