HUDSON — There were no flashing lights, no line of ambulances around the corner when Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point reopened Tuesday morning.
Instead, the sun rose to a much more peaceful scene than that of last Wednesday night, when a lightning strike and fire forced the evacuation of all 209 patients.
The hospital opened its doors at 7 a.m. Administration told staffers to come in for their regular shifts and they began accepting patients. The first patient walked in shortly after opening to undergo scheduled lab work, hospital officials said. It was unclear how many of the patients who were evacuated would return.
"All's well," said hospital chief executive Shayne George. "Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point is very happy and glad to be open for business and taking care of the community."
The hospital, at 14000 Fivay Road, had to remain closed following the fire until state inspectors could check the complex's backup power system. The inspectors cleared the hospital to open on Monday evening.
Many of the patients who were evacuated were discharged from the hospitals that took them in, said Bayonet Point marketing director Kurt Conover, and some were staying in those hospitals for the remainder of their care. Patients will not be liable for the cost of their evacuation or transfer back to Bayonet Point, hospital officials said.
The patients who returned did so in private ambulances, not county or municipal vehicles. And amid much less chaos than when they left.
More than 70 ambulances lined up to haul patients away during following the fire, working late into the night. On Tuesday, ambulances dropped patients off intermittently under sunny skies.
One of the returners on Tuesday was Tom Rabuano, 65. He was admitted into Bayonet Point Aug. 30 after a car jumped a curb on Spring Hill Drive and hit him while he was walking, he said.
Rabuano underwent surgery to repair his shattered legs that day. He was evacuated to Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville the next night.
Without elevators, the patients on the upper floors, like Rabuano, had to be carried down the stairs.
"It was something else going down the stairs getting around on a hardboard," he said from his bed inside the surgical intensive care unit.
The ordeal started when lightning struck the hospital's roof about 6:15 p.m. last Wednesday while the storm that would become Hurricane Hermine was lashing the region, George said last week.
The strike started a fire along the roof line that damaged the electrical system, killing the power at the hospital.
When the emergency backup generators came on, electricity flowed through the damaged wiring, George said, causing a "safety issue." The staff had to turn off the backup power and call for help.
The staff, with the help of dozens of firefighters and the dozens of ambulances from multiple counties, moved every patient to nearby hospitals in about six hours, mostly in the dark.
Rabuano of Spring Hill said he's more comfortable being back at Bayonet Point, but the move didn't bother him.
"Extraordinary times, everybody's got to do extraordinary things," he said.
Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or [email protected] Follow @josh_solomon15.