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OVAHCS Works to Recover from Hurricane Ian

OVAHCS Staff making preparations to facilities prior to Hurricane Ian’s strike on Central Florida.
OVAHCS Works to Recover from Hurricane Ian

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, staff at the Orlando VA Health Care System (OVAHCS) are pulling together to overcome challenges that have been brought on by the storm.

The OVAHCS had about a weeks’ notice before Hurricane Ian hit. Advance preparations and swift actions taken both during and after the storm have led to almost being fully operational just 2 days post storm.

“Early action and assistance from a mission driven workforce have been instrumental in getting the OVAHCS back up and running so quickly,” said OVAHCS Director, Timothy J. Cooke. “We worked to take safety precautions, plan for the worst, and care for the sick; all while taking care of our own families and personal business throughout the storm. Everyone did what was needed and worked great as a team.”

Dr. Derek Szafranski, OVAHCS Incident Commander and Assistant Director notes his personal account of employees putting their own hardships aside for the sake of serving America’s heroes.

“I can’t tell you how many staff showed up for work during the storm. We had critical staff caring for Veterans all throughout the hospital. They were amazing while we handled patient transfers from the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System – all while dealing with facility leaks, wind damage, and more,” said Dr. Szafranski.

Despite the extraordinarily difficult conditions, the OVAHCS is almost fully operational.

“Unfortunately, the Daytona Beach Multispecialty Clinic has sustained some damage from the storm,” said Dr. Szafranski. “We are currently working with the lessor and our facilities management crews to remediate and make repairs. We are hopeful that it will be ready soon.”

The OVAHCS has arranged for Veterans in the Daytona Beach area to continue to be seen virtually, at other OVAHCS sites of care, or in mobile medical units temporarily parked in the clinic’s parking lots.

“We are doing everything in our power to continue to provide Veterans with care and restore normal operations at the clinic this week,” said Cooke. “However, safety is our top priority. Right now, we need to take it one day at a time. Once the clinic has been cleared by safety, facility management services and the lessor, we will reopen the clinic for regular business.”

While the OVAHCS is near fully restoring operations, Cooke notes that the outpouring of support and dedication from staff has not gone unnoticed.

“Ian was a terrible storm. Many of our staff are now dealing with devastating property damage and personal troubles,” said Cooke. “It is very difficult to hear the stories of homes being destroyed and yet our staff are still here, working tirelessly to put the needs of Veterans before their own.”

The OVAHCS Incident Command Team can’t thank staff enough for all their efforts throughout the duration of Hurricane Ian.

“We are humbled by the outpouring of support and dedication of our workforce,” said Dr. Szafranski. “There are no words to express our appreciation for their steadfast commitment to our mission.”


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