‘Business as usual:’ Blount Memorial ER treats 14 ice-fall injuries
From Blount Memorial Hospital
On Friday, it appeared that the halls of Blount Memorial Hospital were pretty much like any other day, according to hospital safety director Carole Chambers. The emergency department maintained a steady flow of patients, though, with many of them needing emergency care after falling on slippery ice.
In the morning hours alone, the emergency department saw 15 weather-related injuries, 14 of which were related to falling on ice while going out to get the mail or paper or to check on animals. “Patients have had fractured bones, sprains and scalp lacerations from hitting their heads on the concrete,” according to Sharon Painter, assistant director of the department. As of mid-day, only one patient related to a traffic accident had sought treatment.
While patients were arriving by a mix of private vehicle and Rural/Metro Ambulance Service, Painter said that the Blount County Rescue Squad had assisted in getting patients with nonemergency needs back home.
With roadways somewhat treacherous in parts of the county, the hospital’s campus was in pretty good shape, according to hospital facilities director Bruce Martin. “Early this morning, we treated the parking lots, sidewalks, entrances and the parking garage entrance with ice-melting chemicals,” he said. “Throughout the day, maintenance and security made rounds, and maintenance reapplied the ice-melting materials as needed.”
As a preventive measure, the hospital’s parking garage was closed on Thursday night and wasn’t expected to reopen until mid-day Saturday, according to Martin. “Our maintenance and security crews monitored the weather conditions throughout the night, and crews were on call just in case the bad weather arrived sooner than we expected.”
Being able to accommodate hospitalized patients, as well as care for those who need emergency care in situations like this is something the hospital plans for throughout the year, and Chambers says the success of Friday is all because of those efforts — and a brief Thursday morning planning meeting to hone in on the specifics of this event.
“We had a general planning meeting on Thursday morning to discuss the weather-related issues and how we would address challenges,” Chambers said. “We knew definitely by 9 a.m. that we had severe weather coming our way. We just weren’t sure when it would hit.”
With that unknown, the team and respective hospital departments began making preparations in critical areas. This included communication, resources and assets, safety and security, staff roles and responsibility, utilities and patient care areas and clinical support, according to Chambers.
“We needed to make sure we had supplies and that we had the right staff here, and we started calling those staff members into work early yesterday for today,” she said. “They actually came in before the weather hit Thursday night and Friday morning, and spent the night so they would be here at 7 a.m. when shifts changed.”
Chambers said the team also looked at critical care services — for example, the hospital’s cath lab, which treats heart attack patients — and made sure people who work in those areas were at the hospital.
The hospital’s preparations included gassing up its vehicles and generators, and ensured meals would be available to patients, staff and guests who found themselves staying with a hospitalized loved one.
“It’s business as usual today,” Chambers said on Friday. “That’s due to good planning and people playing the right role in the plan.”