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CEO says Hilo hospital ready for hurricane’s landfall


Downed power lines will be a major concern once Hurricane Iselle makes landfall today, but Hilo Medical Center expects to keep the lights on.

“When it (the storm) hits, if you could look down on Hilo, we’ll probably be the only building in town with the lights on,” said Dan Brinkman, Hawaii Health Systems Corp.’s East Hawaii interim regional CEO.

The hospital is equipped with two large diesel generators that are capable of supplying 10 days of uninterrupted emergency power.

“We test them monthly,” he said.

The hospital is a fuel priority for Civil Defense, once shipments are able to resume, he said, ensuring that the facility can continue to treat patients using its wide array of equipment and machinery that rely on electricity.

“Being on the Neighbor Islands, we’re isolated, so we definitely have made preparations. We’re at the top on fuel replenishment lists, once the roads are passable,” Brinkman said.

Hospital personnel have been busy over the last week preparing for Hurricanes Iselle and Julio, and Brinkman said today around 11:30 a.m. that the medical center was “as ready as we can be.”

“We have big emergency management plans for just about everything, which we need here on the island, since we’re prone to natural disasters,” he said. “We’ve been tracking this for five days, and we started preparations long before today.”

He said that the hospital would keep a full operating room team on hand throughout the storm in the event they are needed.

“We keep at the bare minimum a two-week supply of everything: food, water, medications, blood supply. And we’re tracking our staffing to make sure that we always have enough here at the hospital at any time,” Brinkman said.

Accomodations have been made at the hospital to house employees who may not be able to leave after their shifts due to the storm, and a day care center has been set up to look after children of employees.

“Part of our preparations has also included encouraging the discharge of some patients who can go home before the storm to open up beds. And a lot of elective work has been canceled, postponed or rescheduled to make sure we have enough capacity,” he said.

One area where the hospital will be at the mercy of the storm involves very serious injuries that might ordinarily be transported to Oahu. The hospital regularly uses a helicopter or a plane to transfer those patients who require a higher degree of care than the facility is able to offer in East Hawaii, but those vehicles won’t be available during the storm, Brinkman said.

“We’ll have a 24-hour period where we will not have the ability to transfer people off the island. Those planes have been relocated some place safe out of the storm, and that’s not an irresponsible thing,” he said. “If a necessary asset like that is destroyed, it doesn’t help anybody.”

Brinkman added that the hospital has taken extra precautions to ensure it can keep patients safe until such time as they can be transferred safely.

“From something as basic as making sure we have extra blood supply, to having our OR team available during the duration, as well as doing other things to stabilize patients to keep them safe for special procedures off island,” he said.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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