Grand Strand Health wants S.C. coastal hospitals to stay open during hurricanes

Hospitals During Storms

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - While we’re still in the middle of hurricane season, hospital officials are working to provide necessary services at all times during the event of an emergency.

Right now, many South Carolina coastal hospitals - including Grand Strand Medical Center - are pushing to stay open during major weather events like a hurricane.

During a hurricane, some coastal hospitals have to shut down when there’s a mandatory evacuation order in place. This happened last year ahead of Hurricane Florence when Grand Strand Medical Center and Tidelands Health had to evacuate, but some people can’t evacuate before a hurricane or choose not to.

“What we found was there was a three-day period during Hurricane Florence where essentially the Grand Strand had no hospital services available,” said Mark Sims, CEO of Grand Strand Health.

Without the necessary hospital services available for those who stay, there's many risks involved.

“There’s always risk in moving patients from one facility to another, but it can be done. But also, I think the bigger risk is we know that for example, during Hurricane Florence, we know that a lot of community members stayed here in the community, either home or with their loved one or somewhere. So the risk is not having hospital services available for those people who stay here during, throughout the event and then afterwards," said Sims.

Sims and several other coastal hospitals from Little River all the way down to Hilton Head are putting a plan together to send a request to Gov. Henry McMaster. He says hospitals like Grand Strand Medical Center would receive a waiver from the state to be under a shelter-in-place during a hurricane. Plans for the shelter-in-place would mean reducing the number of patients by discharging or relocating them and keeping Level One, Level Two, and pediatric trauma services available. Sims says having coastal hospitals remain open during hurricanes is a necessary service for everyone, including our first responders.

“If the first responders are here in the community and providing services, we need to be here as well to support them," said Sims.

Sims presented this plan to both the city of Myrtle Beach and Horry County Council members recently. He says he's received support from several local and state elected officials and hopes to have the plan submitted and in place before the next major storm makes its way to our area.

Hurricane season officially ends Nov. 30.

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