Local hospitals reflect six months after hurricane, look ahead to the future

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Six months after Hurricane Michael, a borderline category 5 storm, made landfall, Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center holds onto a banner to remember all of the people who helped the hospital in its aftermath.

The banner reads "#PanhandleStrong" and has signatures from people who helped cover for the hospital's staff during the aftermath.

Since the storm, Brad Griffin, CEO of Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center, said one of the hospital team's takeaways is how to cope with personal loss while coming in to help patients in need.

"While we've had those challenges, we have seen a number of positive things in the community too. So, one being our ability to hire new people to join the hospital," Griffin explained.

The hospital also has plans to expand in order to accommodate some outpatient services.

Both Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center and Bay Medical Sacred Heart have had to overcome their own sets of challenges after Hurricane Michael.

"Our beds are still limited, but the services are back," Heath Evans, President of Bay Medical Sacred Heart, explained.

Bay Medical Sacred Heart has 75 beds in operation with plans to reopen another 144 private patient rooms, including 42 ICU rooms, before the end of the year, according to Mike Burke, Marketing and Communications Manager of Sacred Heart Health System-Ascension.

"Phase II, at completion, will have 185 private patient rooms. This hospital will be all private rooms, which we think is a big need in the community," Evans explained.

Despite challenges, progress has been made since October 10.

Griffin said, "There are a lot of positive signs in the community. You know, have faith in what's going on, have faith in the leaders in the community to rebuild, that things are happening."