Penn. Hospitals, EMS Work During Historical Snowstorm

Penn. Hospitals, EMS Work During Historical Snowstorm

News Dec 28, 2017

Erie Times-News, Pa.

Dec. 28—April Murphy spent part of her Tuesday driving around Erie in her all-wheel-drive vehicle, picking up UPMC Hamot coworkers.

Murphy, Hamot's director of nursing administration, led an impromptu shuttle service Tuesday and Wednesday to help Hamot employees get to work after Erie's historic snowstorm.

"What we did is have the employees get to the nearest main street, where we would pick them up," Murphy said. "I picked them up at 36th and State and along West 26th Street. One respiratory therapist who lives in North East was brought to work by the National Guard."

Local hospitals and ambulance services have made many adjustments in the wake of the storm, which has dumped more than 65 inches of snow at Erie International Airport since Christmas Eve.

Emergency transportation and medical services have not been impacted much by the storm, according to officials with Hamot, Saint Vincent Hospital and EmergyCare. Some non-emergency services have been postponed or delayed, including elective surgeries and hospital-to-hospital medical transports.

"We have a duty to respond to emergency calls, though it took us a little longer in some circumstances," said Todd Steele, EmergyCare's director of operations. "We also had issues with ambulances getting stuck in the snow. We did receive a Humvee ambulance with two members of the National Guard. They have helped pull out stuck ambulances."

EmergyCare received the Humvee as part of the declaration of disaster emergency for Erie County.

Hamot's and Saint Vincent's emergency departments have seen patients with weather-related illnesses and injuries, but not to a greater degree than a typical winter storm, officials from both Erie hospitals said.

Injuries from slips and falls are the most common complaint, while there were a few snow thrower-related mishaps, too.

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"The most significant one was a patient who put their hand in the snow thrower and lost the tips of three fingers," said Jason Chenault, Hamot's senior director of emergency services. "We had another hand injury from a snow thrower from someone getting it stuck in a snow thrower, but there was no amputation."

Both hospitals have seen patients with back injuries and heart attacks from lifting heavy snow, but there have been no cases of hypothermia or frostbite.

"People seem to be properly dressed when they do go outside," said Wayne Jones, D.O., Saint Vincent's medical director of emergency medicine. "We're just seeing the things we normally see when the weather is like this."

Some patients were kept at Saint Vincent past their scheduled discharge because there wasn't a way to transport them, said Saint Vincent President Christopher Clark, D.O.

"We're talking mainly about patients who were scheduled to be discharged to skilled nursing facilities," Clark said.

Saint Vincent also had employees work past their end of their scheduled shifts to make up for those who couldn't make it into work. The hospital also arranged transportation for some workers.

Ten Hamot employees stayed at the hospital overnight instead of going home at the end of their work shift, Murphy said. They slept in patient beds in an unused unit and ate hospital food.

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