Irma injuries mounting in South Florida hospitals, even before storm arrives

South Florida hospitals are shifting into emergency mode — closing facilities, limiting hours and restricting patient access — as Hurricane Irma approaches with near certainty to make a local landfall.

Yet even as hospitals brace for Irma, they are seeing a rise in trauma patients injured while making last-minute preparations for the storm. Some have fallen from roofs and others injured while installing shutters, said Esther Segura, associate nurse manager for Jackson South Medical Center in South Dade.

“What we’ve seen lately,” Segura said, “is people trying to board up their houses, getting on the roof. So before the storm hits, we have some traumas from people trying to prepare their homes, falling off ladders.”

Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade’s public hospital network, announced that emergency at its three campuses in Miami’s Civic Center, North Miami Beach and South Dade will remain open — but just about all other facilities, from community clinics to doctors offices, were closing today.

Expectant mothers who want to shelter at Jackson Memorial, Jackson North Medical Center or Jackson South must be registered beforehand and meet certain criteria, such as carrying multiple babies at least 34 weeks into pregnancy, hospital officials said.

Pregnant women with placental implantation abnormalities, such as placenta previa, and who are at least 28 weeks into pregnancy, and those experiencing preterm labor also will be admitted to shelter at a Jackson Health hospital.

Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, which is located on Biscayne Bay, announced that as of Friday morning officials would not evacuate patients or essential staff, including doctors and nurses, at its main hospital campus on Alton Road.

Mount Sinai’s emergency rooms will remain open at the Miami Beach hospital campus and at the Aventura satellite in Northeast Miami-Dade, said CEO Steven Sonenreich.

“It is important to remember that Mount Sinai is not a public shelter,” he said in a written statement, “and once we are under a Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch, only persons with medical emergencies, third-trimester maternity patients and individuals with special needs previously assigned to Mount Sinai will be accepted.”

Baptist Health South Florida, the region’s largest nonprofit hospital system, has closed its medical centers in the Florida Keys but expects to keep the remaining five hospitals in Miami-Dade open for the storm, said Georgi Pipkin, a spokeswoman.

Those hospitals include Baptist Hospital Miami, Doctors Hospital, Homestead Hospital, South Miami Hospital and West Kendall Baptist Hospital.

Baptist Health’s doezns of urgent care and diagnostic imaging centers, which stretch from Miami-Dade to Broward, Collier and Palm Beach counties, will close Friday at 3 p.m.

Expectant mothers who are 36 weeks pregnant or more, or those who have high-risk pregnancies, can shelter at a Baptist Health hospital after a hurricane warning is issued. The National Hurricane Center placed South Florida under a hurricane warning late Thursday.

Tenet Healthcare said it will not close any of its facilities in Miami-Dade, including Coral Gables Hospital, Hialeah Hospital, North Shore Medical Center in Miami and Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah, said Shelly Weiss, a spokeswoman.

Weiss urged South Florida residents to prepare for the storm but stay safe while getting ready.

“We are seeing a dramatic uptick in people needing emergency care,” she said. “Be careful in taking preparations. We are seeing a lot of injuries.”