The Atlantic hurricane season, which officially began on June 1, is scheduled to end on November 30. And the 2016 hurricane season is one residents up and down Georgia and Florida’s coast are sure to remember.
Hurricane Hermine was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since 2005. Hermine became a Category 1 hurricane just before making landfall in the Florida panhandle on September 2. Schools and businesses in South Georgia and North Florida were closed as a safety precaution, and thousands were left without electricity for days, as a result of the storm’s strong winds and rain.
Just a few weeks later, Hurricane Matthew, the strongest, costliest and deadliest storm of the season so far, became the southernmost Category 5 Atlantic hurricane on record, and the first Category 5 hurricane to form in the Atlantic since Felix in 2007.
On October 4th, a state of emergency was declared for 13 Georgia counties, and on October 6, Governor Deal ordered a mandatory evacuation for all areas east of Interstate I95 in Georgia.
Fortunately Thomas and surrounding South Georgia counties weren’t directly impacted by Matthew’s strong winds and rain that devastated many of Georgia’s coastal communities.
But working behind the scenes on the other side of the state, Archbold Memorial Hospital staff diligently prepared for the results of a mandatory evacuation of around 500,000 East Georgia residents, including 1,200 hospital patients who were ordered to be transferred to hospitals and facilities in safe zones throughout the state.
“On October 5, Archbold administration began monitoring the storm’s path closely,” said Perry Mustian, Archbold president and CEO. “We were relieved that Thomas and surrounding counties weren’t in the projected path of the storm. But from the very beginning, our team was committed to helping our colleagues at other hospitals who were anticipating one of the worst storms they’d ever experienced.”
Archbold opened the hospital’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC) on October 6 at 10am. Hospital staff was in constant communication with state agencies to coordinate patient transfers for hospitals in East Georgia under mandatory evacuation orders.
“Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville and Archbold’s Brooks County Hospital in Quitman received patients from Glynn County,” said Amy Griffin, vice president of patient care services at Archbold. “We received the patients on October 7, the day before the storm made landfall on the Georgia coast. The patients were under our care for several days, and we released the last patient from our care on October 18.”
Archbold’s EOC stayed open for a total of 86 hours during the event. Requests from neighboring communities and healthcare facilities affected by the storm were evaluated through Archbold’s EOC.
Across town, the state opened the former location of Southwestern State Hospital to house 130 displaced behavioral and mental health patients affected by the storm.
Southwestern State Hospital hadn’t operated as a patient care facility in nearly two years, and lacked the supplies needed to care for the influx of patients that were evacuating to Thomas County.
So Archbold stepped up to provide patients temporarily housed in Thomasville at Southwestern State Hospital with meals, essential personal care items and medical supplies.
“Archbold provided 2,400 hot meals and snacks for the patients that were temporarily relocated to the former Southwestern facility during the storm,” said Sean Austin, director of nutrition services at Archbold.
Six additional Archbold nutrition services team members worked 12 hours daily for 12 consecutive days to ensure patients at the Southwestern facility had the food they needed. A total of three additional Archbold engineering team members and 19 employees from Archbold’s environmental services department also worked extra hours to provide linen, hospital beds, personal care items and cleaning supplies for patients at neighboring facilities in need.
“We shipped enough linen for 150 beds to the Southwestern facility that Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday,” said Judy Megelich, director of environmental services at Archbold. “Our staff also washed, dried and folded over 20 carts of linen and personal clothing, for two long-term care facilities in Valdosta that accepted residents temporarily displaced from facilities in East Georgia, as well.”
In addition, Archbold arranged lodging for family members who evacuated with patients that were being cared for at Archbold facilities.
“Working together with our State partners, Archbold was one of many organizations that worked tirelessly to help all those displaced from Matthew,” said Charles Winchester, emergency management coordinator at Archbold. “The coordination of resources and transport of patients are things that we train for on a regular basis. Our staff was ready to answer the call and were honored to lend a helping hand. Watching our entire team go above and beyond to help people across the state during such a stressful and tragic time was truly heartwarming. It’s times like these I can say I’m truly proud to work at Archbold.”