Patients Pile, Staff Stays, & Off-Roaders Help At Local Hospitals

8:57 AM, Jan 12, 2011   |    comments
Piedmont Hospital
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In between dealing with patients in the E.R., Dr. Henry Siegelson summed up the past few days at Piedmont Hospital:

"This is a very unusual situation for an Atlanta hospital to have to deal with."

Volume at most local hospitals was actually slow on Sunday night and Monday, when inches of snow came down and smothered metro Atlanta's roads. But Tuesday, Siegelson said, "We've had a lot of people come in today with broken forearms and broken ankles."

Siegelson is bracing for many more patients on Wednesday, as cabin fever leads people out of the house and onto the ice.

But some current patients haven't been able to get home. At Piedmont, roughly 50 have been discharged but remain stuck at the hospital because of bad roads.

But at this point, Siegelson says, capacity is not a concern.

"If 100 people came in today, we'd take care of 100. If 200 people came in today, we'd take care of 200. Our biggest problem is with our staff."

That's because many of the staff can't get home either, ultimately working double shifts and sleeping in the hospital.

As the week continues, hospital officials will begin to focus more on supplies. A spokesperson for Emory Hospitals says they are postponing whatever surgeries they can to conserve supplies, all while trying to secure deliveries for the next few days.

Meanwhile, help on all fronts has come from a surprising place: the Georgia Bounty Runners, an off-roading group whose members and four-wheel-drive vehicles have been recruited to help hospitals with deliveries.

"One of the people in the hospital said they used to do this in New York," said G.B.R. president Tony Eiermann. "They would reach out to the local four-wheel-drive clubs in New York. [This time] they just Googled four-wheel-drive in Atlanta and we came up."

The group rounded up some 20 members to help transport supplies and staff to five metro hospitals, from Atlanta all the way up to Ellijay.

"We don't want a dollar," Eiermann said. "It's about just making it happen and helping people out."

And in this case, it's about unusual solutions for an unusual situation.

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