18 Southeast Texas hospital patients evacuated to UT Health Center

Friday, September 23, 2005

Late Friday afternoon, 18 patients from a small hospital in Tyler County sought refuge, appropriately enough, in the city of Tyler, at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. While 11 patients came in a Texas school bus, seven arrived via an ambulance service based in Florence, S.C.

About 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, the school bus and five ambulances from Carolina MedCare drove up to UTHSCT. The ambulances carried seven patients, two of whom were in critical condition. They came from Tyler County Hospital in Woodville, a town of 2,500 located 50 miles north of Beaumont. The small town is squarely in the projected inland path of Hurricane Rita, expected to make landfall early Saturday morning.

Tyler County is under a voluntary evacuation order, and hospital officials wanted to free up its 25 beds for residents who might be injured by Rita’s wrath. So, the hospital released three patients who were well enough to go home and transferred the rest to the Health Center.

UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun said the Health Center was committed to taking care of patients forced to evacuate by Hurricane Rita. He praised the dedication and excellence of UTHSCT health-care staff, who evaluated and admitted all the patients in about 30 minutes.

Paramedic Patrick Sutton of Carolina MedCare said the five ambulances left Florence, S.C., at 3 p.m. Thursday, crossing the Louisiana-Texas line about 5 a.m. Carolina MedCare has a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and this is Sutton’s fourth hurricane; his first was Hurricane Hugo, in the late 1980s.

"This is one of the best organized triage units I have seen," he said, referring to UTHSCT’s process of evaluating and admitting patients. He and his team will spend the night in Tyler, before heading out Saturday as FEMA directs.

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