Delivery was one of many services the hospital partially reopened on Thursday. From inpatient, pediatric and surgical services to cardiac and cardiovascular care, some normalcy has returned to the hospital since the hurricane.
PANAMA CITY — Tasha Holmes gently cradled her son Caiden, barely more than an hour old, at Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center on Thursday morning.
Had Caiden been born a few hours earlier, Holmes might have been holding him in a hospital outside of Bay County instead.
“I didn’t want to make that drive to Fort Walton,” Holmes said with a laugh as she sat up in her recovery room bed while Caiden slept soundly in her arms. “Oh yeah, I’m glad I got to have my baby here.”
Holmes of Panama City became part of local history on Thursday, giving birth to the first baby in the hospital’s delivery room since Hurricane Michael knocked most of the building out of commission four weeks ago. Delivery was one of many services the hospital partially reopened on Thursday. From inpatient, pediatric and surgical services to cardiac and cardiovascular care, some normalcy has returned to the hospital since the hurricane.
“It’s helping us get back to normal, our new normal,” Tamika Williams, director of women’s services, said of the reopening of labor and delivery services. “The staff coming back here, it’s all just been really emotional.”
Before Thursday, only the hospital’s emergency room had been open since the hurricane hit. A few babies were delivered in the ER in recent weeks, but most mothers who were originally scheduled to deliver at Gulf Coast Regional had to visit other hospitals in the region, Williams said.
Williams said she saw the water damage to the labor and delivery department soon after the hurricane, but wasn’t surprised the hospital got services running again in just less than a month.
“We have so much support from the company that I never thought it would be a long time before we started up again,” Williams said.
Gulf Coast Regional is owned by Tennessee-based HCA Healthcare.
Williams noted that delivery services, though open, still were at 50 percent capacity.
“We have five labor rooms available where we normally have 10,” Williams said.
No date has been set for when labor services will be fully restored, she said.
Brad Griffin, CEO of Gulf Coast Regional, said all the services that reopened Thursday were in a similar situation — only at partial capacity without a set timetable for full restoration. Still, getting services even partially available will be extremely helpful for the community and hospital employees, Griffin said.
“We’ve got over 1,000 employees who work here and are ready to get back to the business of helping patients,” Griffin said. “This sends a signal to the community that we’re open and we’re going to take care of you.”
Griffin said the first phase of the hospital’s recovery was to partially restore services. Now that the first phase is complete, the next phase will be to fully restore those services. The largest undertaking will be to reopen the hospital’s third floor, which sustained the most hurricane damage, Griffin said.
“That’s where most of the patients who come here are kept,” he said. “Having that open will give us the most capacity to keep patients local.”
Meanwhile, Bay Medical Sacred Heart also has been shut down, apart from the emergency room, since the hurricane. According to a Thursday press release, Bay Medical has primary care and specialist clinics open, but all services in the hospital likely won’t return until next year.
“The hospital is anticipated to reopen in stages, with the first phase to include inpatient beds, operating rooms and cardiac cath labs,” Scott Campbell, Bay Medical CEO, said in the statement. “The goal is to complete phase one at the beginning of the year.”
For more information about the latest open services at Gulf Coast Regional, visit www.gcmc-pc.com.