Impact of a category-3 hurricane on the need for surgical hospital care

Prehosp Disaster Med. 2007 May-Jun;22(3):194-8. doi: 10.1017/s1049023x00004647.


Introduction: Hurricane Ivan, a strong category-3 hurricane, struck Grenada on 07 September 2004 and devastated the country. Grenada is a small, developing country, whose socio-economic environment and health service is typical of most countries located within the Caribbean hurricane belt. Previous reports describing the consequences of hurricanes on health-related issues have focused mainly on the experience of wealthier countries.

Objective: The objective of this study was to document the types of patients and medical problems faced by a hospital surgical service as a result of a forceful hurricane in a developing country and to help surgical divisions in developing countries prepare for strong hurricanes.

Methods: This is a retrospective study using medical records from the surgical ward of the Grenada General Hospital. Patients admitted to the surgical ward during the month following Ivan were assessed with respect to diagnosis, age, gender, and length of hospitalization. The patients admitted during the same period the previous year were used as a control group.

Results: The effects of the hurricane included a significant increase in the proportion of patients seen for diabetic feet, gunshot wounds, and infections due to wounds. The median length of the treatment time increased by 25%. In 2004, the total number of patients was 185 and in 2003, there were 167 patients admitted.

Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that preparations for future hurricanes should include securing the capacity to handle the increased needs for hospital care, and ensuring that stocks of medicines, such as insulin and antibiotics, are sufficient, properly stored, and easily available to patients (e.g., by storing medicine at hurricane shelters equipped with generators and cold storage facilities). Diabetics should be instructed to use proper footwear to reduce the risk of cuts from debris.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Developing Countries
  • Diabetic Foot / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Foot / etiology
  • Disaster Planning / methods*
  • Disasters*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Grenada / epidemiology
  • Hospitals, General
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology