Hurricane Harvey made its first landfall on the southeast coast of Texas Friday evening as a Category 4 storm and continued to bring devastating amounts of rain to the state throughout the weekend. Many cities in the hurricane’s main path ordered evacuations ahead of the storm but Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country, was unprepared for the rain and flooding which left countless residents trapped in their homes.
The health care infrastructure in Houston has since found itself gridlocked by the hurricane. With ambulances unable to travel in floodwaters and helicopters grounded by the high winds, many hospitals struggled to treat storm victims throughout the weekend.
“We can be dry and open but if you can’t deliver patients to the medical center, that’s our biggest concern.”
Thanks to required hospital engineering improvements following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Tropical Storm Allison which damaged southeast Texas in 2001, most major hospitals in Houston were able to protect themselves against the flooding. This allowed them to continue operating throughout the storm and protect patients already inside, but hospitals were left cut off from patients trying to reach them. William McKeon, president and chief executive at Texas Medical Center in Houston, tells The New York Times, “We can be dry and open but if you can’t deliver patients to the medical center, that’s our biggest concern.”
Law enforcement officials have begun identifying safe routes to hospitals and sharing them with emergency medical service agencies to coordinate the rescue of hurricane victims. This coordination and teamwork seen during Hurricane Harvey shows how healthcare networks have learned from other incidents and put practices in place to prevent hardships experienced during previous storms. To learn more about Houston’s hospital efforts to treat storm victims of Hurricane Harvey, visit here.