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Florida hospitals struggle with sanitation crisis after Hurricane Ian knocked out power and water supply

Hurricane Ian has sent Florida hospitals into crisis mode in the area around Fort Myers, where the Category 4 hurricane made landfall with sustained winds up to 150 miles per hour.

Inside the region’s Health Park Medical Center, there’s no running water, causing patients and staff to defecate in plastic bags, and preventing doctors from being able to adequately santise medical instruments, anonymous staff members told NBC News.

The situation has caused the hospital to evacuate high-risk patients via helicopter and ambulance to other facilities, as biohazard bins fill with human waste.

Dan Culligan, 70, told the outlet he wished to be moved to a shelter after recovering from surgery in the overwhelmed hospital, where four-foot high flood waters are pooled in the parking lot.

"I felt stuck," he said.

The Independent has contacted Lee Health, the hospital’s parent company, for comment.

"The precautions we took were necessary due to the lack of running water in our community. We assure our patients and our staff that the actions we have taken today address these challenges, which were a result of a disaster and infrastructure failure of this magnitude,” spokesperson Mary Briggs said in a media statement earlier this week. “Lee Health is committed to its patients, staff and community, and will do everything necessary to ensure safe and quality care for our patients and our teams.”

They’re not the only ones struggling.

After Ian made landfall, at least 16 hospitals in the state needed to be evacuated, as facilities struggled with power outages and contaminated water supplies.

At HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte, staff waded through knee-high water to evacuate 160 patients, the New York Times reported.

In Lee County, home to Health Park Medical Center, at least nine hospitals lost access to potable water.

The situation is putting “incredible strain on our health system,” Dr Larry Antonucci, chief executive of Lee Health, told the Times.

“We cannot run a health system without running water.”

Nursing homes in Florida, a popular destination for retirement, have also faced issues.

More than 40 facilities, containing at least 3,400 residents, have been evacuated, according to the Florida Health Care Association.