Friday, June 03, 2005

Miami Children's Hospital Prepares For Hurricanes

Source: NBC 6-TV Miami

Renovations Make Hospital Safer During Storm

Preparing for storms is a huge undertaking for hospitals that have to care for patients during hurricanes, but Miami Children's Hospital has a lot less to worry about this season.

Miami Children's Hospital just underwent an $11 million facelift that took about two years.

Chief Officer of Operations Kevin Hammeran said most of the cost was for "encapsulation," or making the hospital hurricane-proof.

"The concept of encapsulation is (that) you take the core of your building, the place where you house your inpatients, the kids who are most at risk ... and you encapsulate that part of the building and create a safe harbor," Hammeran said.

The hospital has achieved this by replacing the windows and frames so that they are impact-resistant. The walls have been reinforced.

"The first layer that's put onto the buildings is a Styrofoam material it provides shock absorbency. On the outside of that comes a fiberglass, reinforced, hardened concrete panel and that, of course, provides the barrier against projectiles that might be thrown at the building. This building is rated to withstand hurricane force winds of about 180 miles an hour," Hammeran said.

Connie Fischman, the nurse manager in the cardiac care ward, said these are welcome changes.

"It's much more reassuring than it was before. I was here during Hurricane Andrew, and it's a big difference than what it was before," Fischman said.

Hospital officials said there is no longer a need to pull patients out of their rooms to take them to a safer place within the hospital during a hurricane warning.

"It's stressful enough, and to have to put everyone in close quarters, it just adds to the stress with the families here. So, at least they'll have their own space this time, and we won't have to do that," Fischman said.

Hospital workers have learned lessons from hurricanes past. Frances, which parked itself over Florida for hours on end, prompted hospital administration to make its staffing policy more flexible. That will also be easier now that no one has to batten down the building.

In the event of a hurricane, Miami Children's Hospital will discharge patients who are not seriously ill, because the hospital accommodates children from the community who have special medical needs or depend on equipment, like a ventilator.

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