Health care within the U.S. Virgin Islands stays in a important state, 5 months after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria pummeled the area.
The solely hospital on St. Thomas, the Schneider Regional Medical Center, serves some 55,000 residents between the islands of St. Thomas and St. John. Schneider’s amenities suffered main structural injury, forcing a lower in its vary of providers, mass transfers of its sufferers, employees departures and vital losses in income. Only about one-third of the beds are presently obtainable for affected person care.
In early September, when Irma hit the Virgin Islands, most of Schneider’s employees members have been on obligation. At the height of the storm, a big window on the hospital’s prime flooring gave out. “You had winds of 175, 180 miles per hour whipping through here,” says the hospital’s Vice President Darryl Smalls.
The screws holding the window in place failed. The window itself, created from hurricane impression glass, remained intact. It’s right here, leaning towards a nursing station that is now in shambles. Ceiling panels are gone, uncovered pipes and ducts are broken and sagging in locations. A giant plywood barrier covers the window opening.
When the window tore off, Smalls says the employees labored shortly to evacuate some 20 sufferers to a safer a part of the hospital. They could not use the elevator in the midst of the storm, so employees transported sufferers from the fourth flooring to the third flooring utilizing the emergency stairwells. “We literally took the patients on the mattresses, slid them down the stairs, down to the third floor, across the building and up onto the other side,” Smalls says. “We have a surgical unit which was not compromised and capable of handling patient care.”
Eventually, all the sufferers who have been at Schneider in the course of the storm have been evacuated off of the island. But whilst employees handled a number of issues, the hospital remained open. In the emergency room, which flooded badly from a leaky roof, Smalls says, “You probably had about 3 to 4 inches of water on the floor in here. I had pumps. I think we probably had 50 people in here at any given time just trying to evacuate as much water out of the facility.”
Today, the hospital continues to offer surgical procedure, labor and supply care, radiology and lab providers. But its most cancers middle, a $28 million facility, stays closed due to in depth storm injury. The hospital can now solely present restricted providers for sufferers requiring dialysis.
Meanwhile, Schneider Medical’s sister middle, the one hospital on St. Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ different main island, suffered much more in depth injury to its working rooms.
Without satisfactory medical providers out there, Schneider Regional CEO Bernard Wheatley says most sufferers who evacuated St. Thomas haven’t been capable of return. “It’s over 400 that have been transferred off island,” Wheatley says. “And to this day, we’re still transferring some patients, especially the ones requiring extensive length of stay.”
Along with the shortage of amenities, one other main drawback is staffing. Wheatley says he is misplaced 150 of the hospital’s 600 staff — lots of whom left the island after the storms destroyed their houses. “The sad part of it, we’ve lost a lot of nurses,” he says. “If you ask me right now, what’s my key entity in terms of shortages, from a clinical standpoint it would be the nursing staff.”
Shanique Woods-Boschulte, who directs Schneider’s basis says, “Every day we get one or two resignations.” After 5 months, Woods-Boschulte says, the every day wrestle is sporting down many employees members. “The morale was really high after the storm because we saw what we were able to accomplish — no patients hurt,” she says. “But now things are trickling down and everyone is leaving a broken hospital and going home to a broken home.”
Adding to the woes, the hospital is in determined monetary straits. Revenues are half of what they have been as a result of there are far fewer sufferers. The government-supported hospital is projecting a $7 million loss.
With all of the competing issues on the islands, CEO Bernard Wheatley says it isn’t clear how a lot assist the native authorities can present. “The territory itself is projecting a $400 million loss,” he says. “They don’t have the hotel rooms, tourism is down. It’s just not the same island.”
The U.S. Virgin Islands is now trying to Congress to assist determine what to do about its battered hospitals. The native authorities is in talks with FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers to find out whether or not the hospitals could be rehabilitated, or if new amenities will probably be wanted.