Sarasota Memorial Health Care System serving record number of patients and evacuees

Disaster medical assistance team put in place to help manage surge of emergency patients at SMH-Venice

“Sarasota Memorial Health Care System stood strong through Hurricane Ian and is serving a record number of patients and evacuees from the southwest Florida region,” hospital staff reported on Oct. 5.

“The health system’s flagship acute-care hospital and emergency/trauma center in Sarasota and the new 110-bed acute-care hospital it opened in Venice last November remained fully functional on backup generator power throughout Hurricane Ian, providing shelter for nearly 2,500 staff and physicians who served on the health system’s hurricane response team for several days this week, leaving their families and homes behind as they cared for and supported well over 700 patients throughout the storm,” a news release pointed out.

“During the hurricane, SMH ‘sheltered in place,’ meaning it continued to care for patients 24/7 with physicians, nurses and support staff who hunkered down and worked around-the-clock to care for patients and medically dependent persons (MDPs),” whom local emergency management officials had brought to the hospital for shelter, the release added. (The health care system “is a designated medical shelter for MDPs, who may require hospitalization during emergency situations,” the release explained.)

An assessment of Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) facilities after Hurricane Ian left the Suncoast region found that most of them “weathered Hurricane Ian well,” the release added. “The health system has devoted significant funds and resources to ensuring that our hospitals are hurricane hardened, and both hospitals and its skilled nursing facility remained fully operational during and after the storm, with no injuries reported,” the release continued. “We reopened all six of SMH’s urgent care centers and most of its physician practices and outpatient centers almost immediately after the storm passed. The only facilities sustaining significant damage were our freestanding emergency room in North Port and a medical office building at SMH-Venice,” the release noted. “Both are closed for repairs. Despite roof damage and some water intrusion, damage inside is minimal,” the release said. Therefore, “SMH anticipates reopening both facilities in a phased approach starting this weekend.”

“Most hospitals south of Sarasota on Florida’s Gulf Coast were evacuated and remained closed for several days” because of storm damage,” the release pointed out. “Sarasota Memorial’s Sarasota and Venice campuses have seen record numbers of patients streaming into their emergency care centers, and have worked closely with emergency management officials and hospitals around the state to manage the influx,” the release noted.

After the storm passed, Sarasota County and the state leaders “dedicated strike teams with nearly 20 ambulances to help transfer patients, and on Sunday (Oct. 2), state and federal emergency officials sent a disaster medical assistance team (DMAT) to help manage the surge of emergency patients at SMH-Venice,” the release continued. “The DMAT set up a 30-bed tent facility just outside our Venice hospital’s ambulance bay, with a team of 37 doctors, nurses, physician assistants, paramedics and pharmacists working with our Venice staff to provide 24/7 emergency and urgent care to help manage the surge. A second DMAT opened in Charlotte County, to help reduce the strain in local ERs while hospitals in that region gradually reopen,” the release added.

“We are incredibly grateful to our entire team,” Sarasota Memorial Health Care System CEO David Verinder said in the release. “Once again, our physicians and staff stepped up to meet the most challenging circumstances, leaving their families and homes behind to care for and support our patients and each other before, during and after the storm,” he added in the release. “Together, we all are working 24/7 to provide care for all who need it, and support those who need assistance following Ian’s devastating impact,” Verinder continued in the release.