Southern Regional, Henry Medical implement emergency plans

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Linda Looney Bond and Johnny Jackson


The severe weather in metro Atlanta has prompted hospitals in the Southern Crescent to implement emergency preparedness plans, according to hospital officials.

"We implemented our disaster plan at 12 o'clock on Sunday night," Claudia Hall, director of marketing and public relations for Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale, said on Tuesday afternoon.

"At that time, we cancelled elective surgeries, and, of course, we maintained a surgical team for emergency cases, [and] they have been busy," she said.

Hall said that eight emergency surgeries were conducted on Monday, and by early Tuesday afternoon, another 14 emergency surgeries had taken place.

"We are seeing an increase in orthopedic surgeries, such as broken legs, from people being out walking on the ice and slipping, and [an increase in] minor motor vehicle accidents," Hall continued.

The hospital spokesperson said Clayton County employees have assisted hospital plant operations staff members with keeping ice cleared from hospital entrances and walkways, and keeping the entrances salted.

She added that helping vital staff members make their way into work has been a team effort. "We have had to send plant operations or engineering staff out to pick up employees.

"Many of our employees have been there since we implemented our disaster plan on Sunday night, and they are working tirelessly," said Hall.

"Our employees are dedicated to taking care of the patients and making sure they have available health services.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Hall said, Southern Regional had not experienced any power outages from this week's icy conditions, and she said hospital supplies remained in good standing.

"We have enough food and linens, those kinds of things," she said. "Our E.R. [emergency room] volume is high ... because most doctors' offices are closed, so the E.R. is really the only place people have to go for even a minor health issue," said Hall.

"One of the challenges is that we can't discharge patients, because people [families of patients] can't get to the patients to pick them up, so beds are at capacity," she added.

"We would like to encourage families -- that can get out -- to pick up their loved ones that are ready for discharge ..."

Henry Medical Center, in Stockbridge, cancelled non-emergency surgeries on Monday and Tuesday, but plans to resume surgeries today, at 10 a.m., according to Michelle Nunnally, the hospital's public relations coordinator.

Nunnally said the community hospital serves more than 190,000 residents in Henry County, as well as patients from surrounding areas, and those who may be traveling along Interstate 75. But it has not seen an increase in the number of injuries or illnesses directly related to this week's winter storm.

The public relations coordinator said the winter storm did affect hospital staff members, though, as more than 100 of them spent Monday night at the hospital.

"We are operating under our inclement weather plan, which means we're bringing in essential employees," said Nunnally. "If they need transportation to the hospital, we are supplying it."

The measure, she continued, was an effort "to make sure there was enough staff, and because weather conditions didn't allow them to get home."

Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer noted that sheriff's deputies were able to help transport some medical professionals to the hospital, and other medical facilities in Henry County.

Nunnally said those nurses and doctors, who made it into the hospital's emergency room this week, have been seeing several cases concerning respiratory issues, which is not uncommon for this time of year.

"The emergency room is functioning with a full staff," she said. "Right now, the emergency department is starting to see people come in who might have waited for the ice to melt. [However,] we are not seeing any weather-related increases in injuries or accidents."

-- Staff writer Elaine Rackley contributed to this report.