Walking blood donors, bathtubs filled with water: How island hospitals are preparing for Hurricane Irma

As Hurricane Irma continues its path of destruction, the next areas to be hit are preparing for the worst — after seeing the complete devastation the storm left in Barbuda and Saint Martin.

Hospital CEO from Toronto says hurricane is 'monster' many people have never dealt with

Hurricane Irma has set its sights on Turks and Caicos, and is expected to hit Florida by the weekend. (NOAA/Associated Press)

As Hurricane Irma continues its path of destruction, the next areas to be hit are preparing for the worst — after seeing the complete devastation the storm left in Barbuda and Saint Martin.

Those preparations have many hospitals in lockdown mode, taking extraordinary measures to cope with the situation, according to a top executive at a hospital in the hurricane's path, who is originally from Toronto.

Pregnant women admitted as precaution

"We're asking all mothers who are 36 weeks gestation to come into the hospital now," said Daniel Carriere, the CEO of both hospitals in Turks and Caicos. Between the two hospitals, 31 mothers have been admitted.

Daniel Carriere, CEO of Interhealth Canada in Turks and Caicos spoke to CBC Toronto via Skype. The two island hospitals are under lockdown, bracing for the impact of Hurricane Irma, expected to hit Turks and Caicos on Thursday evening. (Skype/CBC)

"I'm not sure that any mother ever bargained to be delivering a newborn in these types of circumstances," he said, adding that because of limited capacity, "we can't bring the entire family here with the mother." That raises additional concerns for the soon-to-be moms, but he assured they "will be well taken care of."

Hospital staff are 'walking donors'

One major concern is blood supply, something Carriere explained is always a concern for the two hospitals, but particularly in emergency situations. He's preparing for this situation with what he calls "walking donors."

"We know the blood types of all the staff … and if we have to require units of blood on an emergency basis, either for surgery or the emergency department … we're going to bring them in," he said. Carriere himself was set to donate blood on Thursday afternoon to help with the supply.

Motorists in Florida head north on Thursday morning. Hurricane Irma cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving thousands homeless after destroying buildings. It's on a track that could lead to a catastrophic strike on Florida. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/Associated Press)

Hurricane Irma is expected to hit the island on Thursday evening, before it sets its sights on Florida. The former CEO for Southlake Hospital in Newmarket and Humber River Regional Hospital in York Region moved to the island two years ago, but said he's never seen this type of uneasiness among staff and patients.

This is a monster and they've not dealt with this, many people here have never dealt with this.- Daniel Carriere, CEO Interhealth Canada, Turks and Caicos and Carribean

"Everyone is very concerned and very serious about this storm," he said, explaining that everyone is doing as much as they can but they recognize this is a category five storm. "This is a monster and they've not dealt with this, many people here have never dealt with this."

Water shut off as of noon

Another major concern is the water supply in the hospital. As of noon, the water was shut off in Providenciales, the city that houses the island's largest hospital — something Carriere called a real "wild card."

"We're rationing right now," he explained, adding that the water isn't just to take care of in-patients but also for staff to keep hydrated, and simple things like flushing toilets and taking showers.

Police patrol an area in San Juan as Hurricane Irma slams across Puerto Rico on Wednesday. (Alvin Baez/Reuters)

"We have a reserve tank and what we've done is we're centrally hoarding water and water bottles," he said. "We've got any bathtub we could fill here, filled." That said, water bottle supply is limited, due in part to stores having shut down.

Fortunately, electricity is less of a concern as the hospital has generators and enough diesel to sustain itself for a few days, he explained.

'No one has ever seen anything of the likes of Irma'

Having spent most of his life in Canada, Carriere said he's never dealt with this type of storm — but has been through emergency situations, noting the 2003 province-wide blackout he experienced while working in Newmarket.

We've got any bathtub we could fill here, filled.- Daniel Carriere, CEO Interhealth Canada, Turks and Caicos and Carribean

"It's all about organization, having a plan and preparing and training for the eventuality," he explained. "We go through the training drills, we do it on an ongoing basis and we hope that we will be prepared for when something happens."

But he cautions, "no one has ever seen anything of the likes of Irma."

Children in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic carry containers for water as Hurricane Irma prepares to hit the island on Thursday. (Ricardo Rojas/Reuters)

Carriere praised his more than 120 staff locked down in the hospitals, saying "they're making a big sacrifice."

"They're worried about the patients that they're responsible for, their colleagues and last but not least, they're worried about who's left at home," he explained. The hospitals's employees come from all over the world he added, including Canada, the U.S., Great Britain and Bermuda.

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