NEW ORLEANS (NewsNation Now) — Ida smashed into the Louisiana coast as a devastating Category 4 hurricane Sunday at a time when most hospitals were nearly full with coronavirus patients, a wave fueled by the highly contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates across Louisiana.
Hospitals in that state that suffered the worst damage from Ida worked Monday to transfer patients to other medical centers in the state, while others kept operating on generator power.
Dr. Toni Gross, the chief of the emergency department at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, said staff there are sheltering in place and the hospital is running on generator power.
“We are eating and sleeping, when we can, at the hospital right now,” Gross said. “The hospital was prepared to shelter in place for days to weeks because when you live on the Gulf Coast, especially during hurricane season, you have to be prepared for these things.”
Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s chief health officer, said Monday on Twitter that major hospitals seemed to have suffered minor damage from the hurricane, while a few smaller hospitals “suffered significant damage.”
Kanter urged people to avoid going to hospitals if possible, saying they “will be busy” in coming days.
During Ida, Gross says the children’s hospital has managed well with the 120 patients it currently has.
“In preparation for the storm, one thing that we will do is to look at all the patients we have in the hospital and make a determination as to which patients may be stable enough to be discharged home so that we do have that capacity during a storm for other hospitals that may not have that capacity,” Gross said.
She said the free-standing children’s hospital is the tertiary referral center for Southeast Louisiana.
“We were not approached to take many patients from outlying hospitals, because I think that for the most part, the pediatric capacity in Southeast Louisiana was OK,” Gross said. “I can’t necessarily speak to the adult patients that are in other outlying hospitals in Southeast Louisiana.”
An estimated 2,400 coronavirus patients were in Louisiana hospitals when the hurricane hit, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Edwards said Louisiana was prioritizing power restoration to hospitals because so many are on generator power — 51, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. The governor said federal and state disaster response agencies are working to put technicians at the hospitals “to keep the generators running as long as possible, but also to (determine) exactly what size generator is needed so we can get a backup on site in case that one should fail.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.