Local hospitals, ambulance services, coping with icy weather
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Jan 29, 2014 | 4264 views |  0 comments | 87 87 recommendations | email to a friend | print
At Regional Medical Center on Wednesday in a center for cardiac patients, nurse Laconyea Veasley, left, got a ride to work from hospital security staff.  Nurse manager Chris Word got a lift from the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
At Regional Medical Center on Wednesday in a center for cardiac patients, nurse Laconyea Veasley, left, got a ride to work from hospital security staff. Nurse manager Chris Word got a lift from the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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The aftermath of Tuesday’s icy weather shut down area roads and many businesses, but it couldn't stop local hospitals and ambulance services from providing patient care.

Health care workers handled an increased number of emergency calls due to the weather by remaining at full staffing. However, the task was not easy, with hundreds of medical personnel sleeping where they worked Tuesday night and others working extra hours.

David McCormack, CEO of Regional Medical Center in Anniston, said 233 employees slept at the hospital Tuesday night.

"A lot of them tried to leave but couldn't," McCormack said. "We had to get out old mattresses and the National Guard brought in 40 cots."

McCormack noted some staff got stuck trying to drive home and had to be brought back to the hospital.

"The sheriff's department and the National Guard and civil defense had to come get employees to bring them back," McCormack said.

The hospital needed its full staff Tuesday night. Along with having 240 inpatients, RMC's emergency room visits were up 20 percent compared to a typical Tuesday night, McCormack said.

He said the emergency department staff treated many injuries due to the snow, including broken ankles and legs. Hospital staff also delivered three babies Tuesday.

RMC Jacksonville also had many of its staff sleep at the hospital, however, it did not see a spike in emergency room visits, McCormack said.

"Most people were smart and stayed indoors," McCormack said.

Many residents appeared to follow that advice Wednesday, as RMC's emergency room remained unused much of the day. At 11 a.m. Wednesday, RMC's usually bustling emergency room was devoid of patients. Instead, there was an employee sleeping on chairs in the waiting room while two others chatted at the reception desk.

McCormack said he was happy with the way hospital staff responded to the situation.

"Attitudes were great and nobody complained," he said.

Nearby Stringfellow Memorial Hospital in Anniston also had many workers who spent Tuesday night at their facility, said Bryan McCauley, CEO of Stringfellow.

"We managed through the severe weather Tuesday very successfully," McCauley said. "I'm very proud of our associates and medical staff and thank them for making the personal sacrifices necessary to provide great patient care under these circumstances."

McCauley added that Stringfellow's emergency room visits did not increase and that most were not from weather-related accidents.

"Our total emergency room patient numbers were lower than normal because many people were unable to leave their homes or places of work," McCauley said.

Meanwhile, Anniston EMS had little trouble providing its transport services Tuesday, however, it did have many more calls than usual due to the weather, said Johnny Warren, president of Anniston EMS.

"We were backed up on a lot of emergency calls and had to prioritize calls based on their severity," Warren said. "That's just common things you do in this kind of weather."

Warren said, however, that one ambulance became stuck in the snow Tuesday and had to be retrieved Wednesday.

Warren said his ambulance crews worked nonstop throughout the crisis, with some working 24-hour shifts.

"We hold crews over ... it's just part of what we do," Warren said. "They can't leave until relief gets there."

Oxford EMS also had little trouble providing its services Tuesday, despite the icy roads, said Michael Elkins, assistant director for the company.

"We just had to deal with a bunch of wrecks, but nothing serious," Elkins said.

Elkins said Wednesday was much slower, due mainly to motorists staying off the roads.

"We're still up running medical calls, but that's about it," Elkins said Wednesday.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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