Grand Strand Health pushes for SC coastal hospitals to stay open during hurricanes

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – When a mandatory evacuation order is in place during a hurricane, some coastal hospitals in the state may have to shut down, but one hospital wants to change that before the next major storm.

Some people can’t evacuate before a hurricane, or choose not to, so the head of Grand Strand Health is trying to keep coastal hospitals open during hurricanes as a necessary service for everyone.

“When they think about first responders, hospitals are included in that,” said Mark Sims, CEO of Grand Strand Health.

Before Florence hit, several coastal hospitals across the state like Grand Strand Medical Center and Tidelands Health had to evacuate all patients and close.

“During Hurricane Florence, there was a 2-3 day period where the Grand Strand essentially didn’t have any hospital,” Sims said.

That’s why Sims is asking city and Horry County leaders to help advocate for permission from the state to stay open in hurricanes. He has presented to city and county council over the last few weeks.

Sims says he’s sending his request to Gov. Henry McMaster in a letter and he’ll joined by other coastal hospital leaders from Little River to Hilton Head Island. Sims says hospitals like Grand Strand Medical Center would get a waiver from the state to be under a “shelter-in-place” during a hurricane.

That means reducing the number of patients by discharging or relocating many that could be moved.

“Then, we would have all of our other essential services available,” Sims said. “We would not do, as an example, elective surgeries.”

Sims says Grand Strand Medical staying open is essential for people outside evacuation zones.

“What we do, in terms of level one adult trauma, level two pediatric trauma, those services need to be available (like) cardiac services if someone’s having a heart attack,” he said.

That also goes for emergency crews braving the storm.

“They’re staying, no matter what’s going on,” said Sims. “We’re connected to the first responders, so we need to be able to support them and the work that they’re doing.”

A city spokesperson says the city supports Sims in his request for keeping hospitals open during hurricanes.

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