12/29/10 — Snowstorm did not cause hospital problems

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Snowstorm did not cause hospital problems

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 29, 2010 1:46 PM

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Tammy Wallace, right, a fifth grade teacher at Fremont STARS Elementary School, works with student Katherine Wolf on a reading assignment. The school became the first in the district to use the 3-D Reading program, part of a statewide grant introduced by the governor this year to enhance reading skills. Five other public schools plan to introduce similar programs in the new year.

Hospitals never close, not even when the weather is bad.

So when Wayne County was pounded by snow over the weekend, every effort was made to ensure medical services offered by Wayne Memorial Hospital remained intact.

As it turned out, the biggest problem the hospital encountered during the storm was not related to injuries at all, but to the transportation of employees.

"Pinewood Fire Department was called and got six, 10, 12 nurses to work," said Shirley Harkey, vice president of patient services. "They coordinated with Mar Mac Fire Department and helped by giving rides to nurses from Mount Olive.

"There was a great community effort to get our staff here and staff came to work."

In anticipation of such weather emergencies, the hospital typically provides a place for employees to sleep if they're hesitant to drive and risk getting stranded.

"I think some people spent the night Saturday night because they knew some things were going to happen Sunday. Six or eight people slept in-house. I had some people sleep here (Monday) night because they wanted to make sure to be here if we needed emergency surgery," Ms. Harkey said.

Such are the personal sacrifices those in health care make to keep a hospital running, she said.

And not just in anticipation of the unexpected incident or emergency, she noted. Surgeries are rescheduled regularly and oftentimes require patients to arrive to the hospital during the early morning hours to be prepped.

"We needed to make some decisions about what to do. Were we going to do surgery (Monday) because we didn't want people on the roads?" she said. "We delayed surgery times a couple hours because we wanted to make safe decisions for people."

Fortunately, roadways were cleared quickly.

"Our town did a phenomenal job in clearing these roads," Ms. Harkey said.

While the hospital emergency department handled business as usual, there were not an exorbitant number of weather-related problems.

"When I was here Sunday, about 3 o'clock Sunday, we did not have a lot of trauma-related accidents related to the snow," she said. "I think people were very safe. Our ER was staffed and ready, I don't think we saw a lot (of emergencies)."

Perhaps because it was Sunday, or the Christmas holiday, but for the most part, it appeared that area residents were just "staying put" and not venturing into harm's way, Ms. Harkey said.

"We were just fortunate," she said. "It was Christmas weekend so a lot of people, you're only in the hospital if you're really, really sick."

As residents started venturing out, whether on the highway or just in the yard to play in the snow, there have still been fewer incidents involving visits to the emergency room than was expected.

"(Monday) there were five falls, mostly adults, and maybe three or four today (Tuesday) and five people who came in because of car crashes," said Amy Cain, the hospital's director of public relations. "It's not a lot considering. It was a much smaller number than we thought it would be."