It’s a familiar route with about a dozen stops that snakes through the UF Health Jacksonville downtown campus. Hundreds of employees and patients hitch a ride on the hospital shuttles daily to get to work, their next meeting or an appointment. On Saturday, Sept. 9, the route got a lot longer and the conditions became rougher as the race against Hurricane Irma began.
“Without our shuttle service, there would have been no way for us to properly discharge patients that weekend,” said Allison Martin, senior manager for Case Management and Palliative Care at UF Health Jacksonville. “They were truly a lifesaver.”
Martin was one of 16 case managers at UF Health Jacksonville and UF Health North who remained on-site during Hurricane Irma from Saturday, Sept. 9, through Tuesday, Sept. 12. Their goal was to discharge as many patients as possible before the storm to make room for the influx of patients that generally arrive afterward.
“This storm added a challenge for us. Public transportation and private taxis all stopped running late Saturday,” Martin said. “It left many of our patients stranded.”
Kelly Tours has been providing shuttle services for the hospital since 2015. They were running the weekend of Hurricane Irma initially to provide transportation for employees who needed to get to and from the Pavilion and Clinical Center safely. Lester DuBose was one of the weekend drivers and serves as the shuttle contractor. He stepped up in a big way for UF Health’s patients.
“Each day, Lester and his shuttles drove 15 to 20 patients to safety,” Martin said. “He drove our patients from the downtown and north campus home and to disaster shelters. He did this every night up until midnight, even on the day of the storm.”
UF Health Jacksonville has been doing business directly with DeBose for 10 years through different companies. Support Services says he has always gone above and beyond for his clients in the name of great customer service.
“We had to think outside of the box to get people to safety,” Martin said. “DeBose and his shuttles became a lifeline for us. They made it possible for the patients who really needed us after the storm to get medical care.”
As UF Health’s operations returned to normal, employees and patients now ride the shuttles with the added comfort of knowing our high-quality care extends beyond the bedside to our bus stops and on to every shuttle ride they take.