(Reuters) - Houston-area hospitals are bracing for an influx of patients as record flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey recedes, an effort likely to be complicated by potential staff shortages because of the storm's disruption of employees' lives.
More than two dozen hospital administrators met in Houston on Thursday to discuss how to coordinate care in anticipation of more patients visiting medical facilities in coming days as roadways became more accessible.
"As people are able to get out and maybe couldn't have gotten healthcare during the storm, we'll start to get busier," said Gay Nord, president of Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center.
Houston is home to several of the world's most-renowned medical institutions and is one of the best-equipped cities to handle the havoc, city and health officials said.
Most hospitals were able to remain operational, but several had to shut down wings as Harvey drenched Houston. About 1,500 patients had to be evacuated from 20 facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, said Darrell Pile, chief executive of the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, whose catastrophic medical operations centre is coordinating hospital response.
As medical wings began reopening later in the week, the focus was also on how to ensure that patients who travel long distances for some of Houston's specialised medical services could keep receiving care.
"We want to figure out how do we help connect people with appropriate resources. We don't want emergency resources to get overburdened," said Sarah Maytum, assistant vice president at Texas Children's Hospital.
Officials are also looking to help hospitals in cities farther east that are now being hammered by rainfall.
Another pressing concern for hospitals is taking care of thousands of their own employees who have had trouble getting to work or must deal with personal losses from the storm, including evacuated families and flooded homes and cars.
Officials said they were looking into providing funds for the employees to find temporary housing close to hospitals and obtain daycare.
(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)