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Study finds many hospitals on Gulf, Atlantic Coast at risk of flooding in hurricane

Hurricane Ian Carolinas
Posted at 12:20 PM, Oct 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-20 15:20:34-04

A new study found just how many hospitals are at risk of flooding due to hurricanes here in the United States.

“Our study really asked the question ‘How resilient is our hospital care that serves roughly one in four people in the United States that live on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts to the effects of hurricanes?’,” said Doctor Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician and climate expert. He is also the interim director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

He said these storms are only getting stronger as ocean temperatures rise.

“Ocean heat is hurricane food,” he said.

In September, hospitals in Florida were evacuated due to Hurricane Ian. One hospital – HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Charlotte County – closed the day following the hurricane because of storm damage.

“Roughly a third of the metro areas from the southern tip of Texas to the top of Maine have about half of their hospitals at risk of flooding from a relatively weak storm. A Category 2 storm,” Dr. Bernstein said.

Access to these hospitals can also be challenging, according to the study.

“Particularly in Florida, there are many metro areas in Florida we found where over half the roads are likely to be inaccessible within a mile of the hospital,” he said.

Experts say if you require regular access to a hospital, be prepared, especially during hurricane season.

“If you are requiring regular access to a hospital for care you need, whether that's for a drug infusion or radiation therapy or something else, and it's pretty clear that hospital is going to be inaccessible due to flooding, I think it's really helpful to plan with your care providers a plan B,” Dr. Bernstein said.

He said you can do this by making sure you have enough of any medical supplies you may need during hurricane season.

“I think it's really important for people to take control to the extent they can of their medical records and that they have a one page summary of what their diagnoses are, what their medications are, and some pertinent lab tests,” he explained.