Medical facilities have mixed results during Irma

When the brunt of Hurricane Irma struck Monday, health professionals had to maintain normalcy for patients who are often the most vulnerable in a storm. Two prominent Putnam County health facilities had two different outcomes.

Putnam County Medical Center CEO Chris Mosley said the hospital took minimal damage from the storm.

“We had one of our small exterior metal signs get blown over and minimal leaks, but nothing major,” Mosley said.

Mosley said Putnam County Medical Center was well prepared, and its generator never quit. He said the facility never lacked lighting, air conditioning or supplies. Several employees stayed for the storm with their families.

“During the storm, we housed the employees that were working through the hurricane, their family members and their pets so that they could focus on taking care of our patients without having to worry about the safety of their loved ones,” Mosley said.

Palatka Health Care Center faced a far more harrowing situation. The hospital, with 150 residents, had a failing generator and experienced rampant flooding. Palatka Public Works had to send a crew to dig temporary drainage.

“We were doing all we could to prevent the water from intruding into Palatka Health Care,” City Manager Terry Suggs said. “When I was wading into the building, it was waist-deep on me at the time.”

It took over five hours, but Suggs said the water dropped a foot and a half when the process was finished in a joint effort from the Putnam County Fire Department, the Palatka Fire Department, Palatka Public Works and volunteer fire department members.

“Palatka Health Care was in critical mode. They were having to move patients from one side to the other side for the simple fact that it was four inches higher in elevation,” Suggs said. “It made all the difference.”

Hurricane Irma’s effects would last longer than the initial storm, as with any major hurricane.

Department of Health in Putnam County Administrator Mary Garcia advised that residents sanitize wells and clear standing water around the house to prevent mold and mosquitoes. Garcia warned that animals, particularly snakes and insects that are usually out of sight, may be above ground because of the storm.

With extensive flooding, fallen debris and power outages, living conditions have deteriorated for some, which takes a mental toll, Garcia said.

“Make sure anyone having a stressful time finds someone to talk to,” Garcia said. “When somebody doesn’t have power or water, it’s like they don’t have structure.”

Garcia said the county’s biggest concern was getting people home who are dependent on electricity or oxygen.

“We’re in Day 9 of the recovery effort,” Garcia said. “We still have some challenges to work out.”