Hurricane Season is Here

Here we go again. We are privileged to live and work in South Florida with beautiful beaches in our own backyard. But, with the sunshine and the surf comes the yearly threat of storms. As we do each year on June 1st, today, we put our guard back up and begin to watch the tropics. My biggest concern is complacency. It has been a long time since we have had a hurricane and a really long time since a serious one like Hurricane Andrew. That was 1992. We have lots of people working here who were born after 1992! Fortunately, we still have a lot of institutional knowledge about hurricanes and a substantial percentage of people who have real-time experience.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast 10-16 named storms, four to eight hurricanes and one to four major storms packing winds over 110 mph for this coming season. While that’s an “average” amount of storms, we Floridians know there is nothing “average” about hurricane season. Each year, and each storm is different. And, experts say predicting this season is particularly difficult due to several factors including whether El Niño that helped keep the 2015 season low has begun to fizzle and whether La Niña, which can fuel storms, will begin to form.

The first storm of the year has already happened and passed us by. Our state dodged any effects, but Charleston, South Carolina felt the effects over the holiday weekend. The storm brought heavy rain and flooding to the area. They don’t call it the Low Country for nothing. Jean Arias, R.N. (jeana@baptisthealth.net), who leads our Emergency Preparedness efforts, checked in with our colleagues at Roper Hospital in Charleston in case they needed our support. They were fine, and will reciprocate with us when the day comes. We have friends in low places!

This one missed us, but this is an early warning that the season is upon us, and we must all have our plan of action at home as well as at work. We know our patients and their families depend on us through all kinds of weather and events. We make it a point to review our plans and protocols as teams and across the organization each year, hoping we’ll never have to use them, but confident we’ll know what to do if we do. Do you know what your role is at work in the event of a hurricane, or where to call for updates? I urge you to take some time now to review this information with your team.

It is also crucial to have a plan at home. If you don’t have one, the National Hurricane Center has some great information on its website that can help, including contact numbers for reference and a list of supplies that you should have on hand. As always, we’ll keep you updated through this forum and others as we monitor storms or other situations and put our emergency operations in place.

“We’ve been meant for this, since we were born
No problems now, the coast is clear
It’s just the calm, before the storm
This must be just like livin’ in Paradise” – David Lee Roth

Wayne Brackin

Zika Virus Update #2

As you know, news around the Zika virus is evolving quickly. Today, Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order to declare a public health emergency in four counties, including Miami-Dade, due to the Zika virus. At least nine cases of the mosquito-borne illness have now been confirmed in the state — four of those in Miami-Dade County. All of these cases are believed to have been contracted abroad, and none involve pregnant women. “Although Florida’s current nine Zika cases were travel-related, we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state,” said Gov. Scott in announcing the order. His action allows the state’s agriculture department to provide additional mosquito control measures in affected areas. It also directs the Florida Department of Health to make determinations as to what resources and information are needed in the state to combat the spread of Zika.

Earlier this week, health officials in Texas reported that the first known case of Zika contracted in the United States was a person infected after sexual contact with somebody who had become infected abroad. The CDC is working to learn more about how the virus can be transmitted.

Just as the state and CDC are taking measures to stay ahead of the virus and educate people as much as possible- so should we. Our community looks to us as a resource for education and reassurance, and I want you to know that we are doing all we can to learn about this virus and prepare for the safety of our employees and patients.

Personally, we can all take measures to protect ourselves by avoiding mosquitoes. To learn more about the CDC’s recommendations, click here. The most important thing about this declaration of a public health emergency is that it is based on the uncertainty of this situation. For example, when we communicated last on this, there was no documented person-to-person transmission, now there has been. Things are going to likely change from day to day and week to week for some time to come. As a system, we continue to follow national and international guidance, and work closely with the health department to ensure we have the latest information and protocols. At this point, we are not activating our incident command centers, but we are following this situation very closely. As always, we’ll keep you informed.

Wayne Brackin

Monitoring the Zika Virus

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus linked to birth defects including microcephaly in babies born to mothers who were infected during pregnancy, is causing concern among health officials from around the world, and continuing to make headlines. The virus has been widely covered in the media. And, as news about this virus evolves, we are responsible for focusing on the facts and making sure we are informed and prepared.

While we do not yet understand the full spectrum of outcomes that might be associated with infection during pregnancy, nor the factors that might increase risk to the fetus, here is what we do know:

Local transmission of the virus has not been documented in the continental United States, but has been identified in more than 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Centers for Disease Control is recommending that until more is known and out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women, and women planning to become pregnant, who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their healthcare providers first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes (conjunctivitis); however, the CDC estimates 80 percent of people infected with the virus have no symptoms. There is no specific antiviral treatment for this virus.

“From a global perspective, the medical community has the technology to know where there is an outbreak and how it is spreading, so it gives us an opportunity to prepare,” said Dr. John Braden, Baptist Health South Florida’s Director of Emergency Preparedness. “We will continue to monitor and gather data to continue to manage this effectively.”

As a healthcare system, we are watching the spread of this virus and working closely with the health department to ensure we have the latest information. The CDC has developed guidelines for health care providers in the U.S. caring for patients during this outbreak. We are following those guidelines. As always, our patients go through a screening process which includes travel history. Based on travel information and symptoms, we work with the health department to determine whether or not patients need to be tested for the virus, and treat them appropriately.

Dr. Jorge Perez, medical director of neonatal intensive care at South Miami Hospital and chairman of South Miami Hospital’s Center for Women and Infants says: “we are looking at the protocols the CDC is recommending and keeping up to date with the data and the countries that are affected.”

Additional studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection. For more information, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.

As always, we will keep you informed as we learn more about the virus and its effects.

Wayne Brackin

went seven and eight pounds

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Monitoring Tropical Storm Erika

The only thing certain about this tropical storm is that it exists and we are prepared for it. If we do have tropical storm or Cat 1 weather conditions, it will be a few days from now. The best of weather forecasters, from the National Hurricane Center to Bryan Norcross, cannot make a reliable forecast about this particular storm at this point. There will be major changes to the forecasted track over the next couple of days, so it is important not to overreact to any single forecast. We have a responsibility to our patients, and each other, to be calm and not provoke anxiety.

As of now, we are at Level 3, our lowest level of activation. This means we are monitoring and assessing this potential storm through our Department of Emergency Preparedness in collaboration with the Miami-Dade County Department of Emergency Management, the Department of Health, Florida State Region 7, and the State of Florida. There are no changes to normal operations. Your chain of command through your department remains the same. Your responsibility is to stay informed, pay attention to potential changes in staffing and schedules, fulfill your preparation responsibilities to home and family now so you are able to meet your obligation to care for our patients during bad weather, if it comes.

We will keep you informed as it develops.

Wayne Brackin

First Storm of the Season

Welcome back. Our first hurricane of the 2015 season has emerged.

Hurricane Danny has jumped up as a small, unpredictable, but fairly strong (for the moment) Category 2 hurricane. It has been called mini, micro, and a tiny hurricane, but the small size also makes it more difficult than normal to apply the tracking models to it.

Let’s keep our many friends, family, and patients in mind in the Caribbean as they prepare for a potentially messy week. A small but wet storm will actually be welcome in the islands as many have been suffering drought conditions this year, particularly Puerto Rico. The Virgin Islands will be first up, and we will be thinking of our colleagues at Schneider Regional Hospital in St. Thomas.

Predictions are that this small storm is likely to weaken over the next few days, and may drop below hurricane strength over the weekend. I expect it not to be a factor for us here in South Florida, but they call it unpredictable for a reason. As the first storm of another quiet season, the media attention will be heightened, and unnecessarily increase anxiety in the community.

Review your plans for both work and home, but expect it to be business as usual for Baptist Health South Florida.

“People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one
And we’ve just begun”

Danny’s Song-Loggins and Messina

Wayne Brackin