By Jeremy Peplow - September 29, 2022
As the sun set over the Moffitt Cancer Center Magnolia Campus on Tuesday, Sept. 27, over 500 Moffitt employees reported for their shifts.
About 200 miles away, Hurricane Ian had its sights set on Tampa Bay. Early predictions showed potential landfall as a category 4 storm, which would bring catastrophic damage to the region. Moffitt braced for the potentially life-threatening effects of the hurricane.
By 10 p.m., Moffitt declared a state of emergency and initiated lockdown protocols at its campuses, including setting up an incident command center at its Magnolia Campus. While all clinical appointments and operations were canceled for the remainder of the week, Moffitt still had 188 hospitalized patients to treat and care for.
Moffitt became home for the 500 team members, referred to as Team A, for the next 40 hours.
"Day in and day out, this is the incredible work that goes on here at Moffitt"- Sabi Singh, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Hospital President
“Day in and day out, this is the incredible work that goes on here at Moffitt, and one thing about our healthcare staff is they all step up to these kinds of challenges,” said Sabi Singh, chief operating officer at Moffitt. “What's amazing about Moffitt is the systems we have in place. We put together a system for Team A and Team B where we go into all the details. Who are the members of Team A and Team B? Do they have kids in situations like this? Would the kids need any kind of accommodation? So all those things, even the minute details help, and we can activate our response in a very timely fashion,” continued Singh.
Throughout the storm, the safety of the Moffitt patients and team members remained the top priority.
"We had a substantial number of our staff that sheltered in and just kind of rode out the storm,” said Terrence Wright, vice president of Facilities and Support Services at Moffitt. "They weren't able to go home, they were working longer hours than they usually do, just so many things to deal with along way. It's dedication across the entire spectrum of facilities and support services, emergency operations and our security team working to make sure that we're secure, the doors are locked down and the people are safe and inside.”
For the 188 patients who remained at Moffitt, the stress of the impending effects of Hurricane Ian only added to the immense strain of battling cancer.
“We have some patients who are not just from Tampa, but areas like Port Charlotte and Fort Myers and they have families there or their home is there,” said Peter King, manager of Patient Care at Moffitt. “So we want to reassure them as best as we can that they're safe here, we're going to take care of you and we will assist you once we get to that point when the hurricane passes over.”
By 10 a.m. Wednesday, the track of Hurricane Ian had shifted and was now forecasted to strike counties south of Tampa.
“Overall, we dodged a bullet,” said Margaux Mas, emergency preparedness manager at Moffitt. “We're still doing the damage assessments, but we have not received anything substantial due to the preparatory actions taken ahead of time. I think we did really well in terms of making sure we had all the supplies that we needed pre-storm.”
At 10 a.m. on Thursday morning, the state of emergency was lifted at Moffitt and the doors unlocked for Team A to be relieved by Team B. No longer a hurricane, Ian maintained an easterly course across Florida lessening the effects on the Tampa area.
While the major effects of the storm had passed, the recovery efforts for many were just beginning.
“I’m just happy we made it and we didn’t get a direct hit,” said Michelle Floyd, who works in Food Services. “Now it’s time to go home and rest.”
By the numbers, the Moffitt response:
- 188 in-patients during the lockdown
- 300 medical and nursing staff on site
- More than 100 ancillary staff offering support services
- 100 members of the Tampa Police Department sheltering at Moffitt
- More than 2,800 meals prepared for patients and staff
- 9 children of staff members cared for