Thank you following Hurricane Irma
As Hurricane Irma moved North through Florida on Sunday, Sept. 10, and Monday, Sept. 11, more than 1,500 UF Health team members from our hospitals, outpatient practices and colleges in Gainesville and Jacksonville responded with precision, composure and determination. You enacted disaster response plans and were adaptable and resourceful.
Many of you left behind your loved ones and the uncertainty of whether your homes would remain intact. You did this all for the greater good to ensure that our hospitals and E.R.s remained open to serve our patients and communities during the crisis.
Thank you to everyone who helped prepare in advance, came in to work and stayed overnight and beyond your regular shifts in the hospital, taking care of patients and each other. And thank you to those who are now working to resume regular operations in all our clinical programs, colleges and institutes. Your teamwork has been fantastic.
The UF College of Medicine and the UF Health Shands hospital system activated our emergency response plans Friday, Sept. 8, and opened the main campus hospital emergency operations command center at 11 a.m. Sunday. Anticipating unsafe travel conditions during the storm, we assembled two full shifts of faculty, residents and staff at the hospital at 3 p.m. Sunday. With a census of over 800 inpatients, we arranged for staff sleeping quarters in conference rooms, offices and classrooms to accommodate the more than 1,000 faculty members and staff needed for the duration. We also arranged for childcare to enable essential staff to stay onsite. Dozens of employees voluntarily joined our staffing pool to help with childcare, food distribution and other duties to ensure continuation of hospital operations.
UF Health Shands Hospital, UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital and UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital, our trauma center and freestanding emergency centers remained operational throughout the storm and experienced heavy patient traffic. We were ready to receive evacuated patients and transfers from other hospitals as needed. We were proud that all four E.R.s (three adult, one pediatric) remained open to serve the community and that our hospital outpatient pharmacy was the only retail pharmacy open in town Sunday afternoon.
Our colleges adapted operations and coordinated closures to patient programs during the storm. Those with outpatient clinical practices — such as the Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and Health Professions — managed patient notifications and made every effort to reopen as early as was practical. The UF College of Veterinary Medicine continued animal patient care, stayed open as long as was safely possible and was the only provider in the region to offer veterinary emergency services following the storm. Faculty, staff and students have now resumed regular activities. The majority of our UF Health Physicians medical practices and hospital outpatient services reopened without incident.
However, since Irma, there have been record-high water levels in rivers north of Gainesville, which temporarily closed some major roadways. Our community is still managing and recovering.
The UF College of Medicine — Jacksonville, UF Health Jacksonville and UF Health North opened a joint emergency operations center Saturday, Sept. 9. Two shifts of care teams, including physicians, nurses, other providers and support staff, were identified before the storm hit. The first team was called in following the opening of the hospital EOC. During the storm, approximately 600 staff members cared for 500 inpatients at UF Health Jacksonville and more than 70 at UF Health North Hospital. The trauma and emergency rooms were in full operation, and many more patients came into the E.R. Due to dangerous conditions, several local hospitals were forced to evacuate or shutdown before and during the storm. Fortunately, UF Health Jacksonville and UF North remained open for the duration. We also ensured staff were cared for with sleeping quarters and meals.
Hurricane Irma brought tropical storm force winds to north Florida late Sept. 10 and through Sept. 11, with highest gusts recorded at nearly 100 mph. Many parts of Jacksonville experienced severe flooding, and our campuses experienced high winds and heavy rain. Along with water leaks in many buildings, and some flooding and downed trees, there were also some electrical outages. Every effort was made to continue normal operations, and patient care was not notably interrupted.
Due to flooding and the potential for dangerous road conditions, we kept our UF Health practices in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia closed last Tuesday, and the majority of our practices reopened as the week progressed.
We are extremely proud of our faculty, residents, staff and volunteers who provided extended care to our patients and community. We are all thankful the storm’s impact on our areas, though considerable, was somewhat less than originally anticipated. We now enter a period of recovery and reactivation to get back to normal operations.
With so many throughout our state suffering significant loss, we remain committed to our mission and are ready to provide necessary support and assistance as Florida faces a long recovery.
To everyone involved, we are so proud to see how the UF Health family rose to the occasion when tested and supported our patients, visitors, students and each other through a very uncertain experience. Your teamwork and dedication continues to inspire us.
Michael L. Good, M.D.
Dean, UF College of Medicine
Acting Senior Vice President for Health Affairs, UF
Acting President, UF Health
Chief Executive Officer
UF Health Shands
Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., MHSA, C.P.E.
Vice President for Health Affairs and
Dean, UF College of Medicine — Jacksonville
Chief Executive Officer
UF Health Jacksonville