A look at SA center coordinating hospital patient transfers from coast, Houston

Regional Medical Operations Center manages all transfer efforts

SAN ANTONIO – Eight hundred patients have been rescued from hospitals debilitated by Harvey, with a center in San Antonio taking charge of coordinating all those transfers.

The roomful of people is pretty quiet for the chaotic work they're doing. 

"We're working on hospital transfers out of, first, Corpus Christi and then Victoria and then, of course, we focused our efforts on Houston," said Eric Epley, director of the Regional Medical Operations Center. 

In a room within the center, Epley manages hospital representatives, FEMA and public health representatives, and emergency medical services personnel.  

"Both sending response assets downfield but also receiving patients to transfer back to San Antonio," he said.

It's a delicate balance, finding a way to get patients to specialists while spreading the patients equally between hospitals so they don't get overloaded. 

"And then we have to arrange transport with maybe 100, 150 ambulances, helicopters and Ambuses," Epley said.

The San Antonio Fire Department has crews in Houston and the coast that are helping with the medical transfers. They've sent two ambulances, one big ambulance bus and 16 paramedics. 

San Antonio Fire Department leaders said even though some crews are helping with medical transfers, there is no effect on service in San Antonio.  On a map in their office, they can track those local teams, as well as the other teams working throughout the state.

"These are all the assets that are in Texas right now," Epley said pointing to the map. "Those are Ambuses, ambulances, instant support personnel ... that we're tracking and working with."

They're also constantly tracking the number of patients they’re transporting, what their status is, if they’re en route and if they’ve been cleared. It's a 24/7 job and will be for at least the next week or two. 

"It's a lot of pressure, but it's what we train for. And in many ways, it's what we dedicated our lives to, to be prepared for this moment. Hopefully, what we've put together will help make a difference," Epley said. 

It makes a huge difference to patients who don't know when they'll be home again.


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