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Hospitals strengthen hurricane evacuation plans

May 25, 2011 at 12:25 a.m.


Victoria hospitals and nursing homes are ready for the 2011 hurricane season.

Citizens Medical Center evacuated in 2005 when Hurricane Rita had its eye on the Crossroads and again in 2008, when Ike posed a similar threat, said Robbie Kirk, emergency services coordinator for Citizens.

"We wrote the book on how to evacuate a hospital," Kirk said about how both Citizens and DeTar Hospital plan for evacuations with San Antonio, evacuation central for the area.

Kirk, who is also part of the state disaster committee, said that this year the hospitals will have armbands that, when scanned, shows the name of the patient and has the person's medical information.

This is new and important in the evacuation process, he said.

It helps make the evacuation process more efficient, he said.

The evacuation process is made 48 to 60 hours ahead of the storm.

"For the whole region, all roads lead to San Antonio," he said.

DeTar Healthcare System realized the threat during hurricane season, said Lisa Price, trauma and emergency management coordinator with DeTar.

"We collaborate closely with local, regional and state entities to plan for evacuations or sheltering in place to ensure the safety of our patients," Price said.

The remaining six months outside hurricane season is used to train and educate the staff and physicians and tweak plans based on the findings from the previous season, she said.

Of course, both Citizens and DeTar are equipped with backup generators.

Ambulances and buses are ready in San Antonio should a hurricane threaten the Crossroads. Patients in Port Lavaca are moved out first, then Edna and then Victoria.

If a storm looks as if it is heading to Victoria, the hospital chief executive officers meet with emergency management, the judge and mayor to announce an evacuation, Kirk said.

Ginger Whitley, the administrator for Victoria Nursing and Rehabilitation has evacuated a nursing home before.

They have evacuated in the years past for several close calls. This year will be different.

"This year we'll have shelter in place," she said. "In hindsight, we should have stayed."

The nursing home has 122 beds and their facility keeps emergency supplies on hand, enough for at least three days. The facility also has a working generator.

If a mandatory evacuation is in place, the Floresville ambulance service, just south of San Antonio, will be used for transportation to San Antonio, she said.

Evacuating as a hospital, nursing home, or even a family is no easy task.

"It's really tough on the people who live here," she said.

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