Hospital goes on red alert

Shortage of beds causes hospital to divert some patients

Shortage of beds causes hospital to divert some patients

December 29, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

It was a bit of deja vu at Washington County Hospital Sunday evening as the facility went on red alert within days of New Year's Eve for the second straight year.

Dispatchers from the Washington County 911 center began reporting Sunday evening that Washington County Hospital was on a red alert and some trauma cases were being sent to other medical facilities.

Washington County Hospital spokeswoman Maureen Theriault confirmed the facility was on red alert, meaning no monitored beds were available there on Sunday.


Theriault also confirmed the hospital was on trauma bypass, meaning the hospital only would treat priority-one patients, those who are seriously injured and have not yet been stabilized. She said even those patients potentially would be moved to other hospitals, depending on the severity of their injuries, once stabilized.

She said as a result of the trauma bypass, nearly every call reported from more than 15 minutes from Washington County Hospital would be routed to another facility.

Theriault said the emergency department had an overflow of patients, causing personnel to open beds in areas typically used for outpatient services.

"They're really busy - all of the medical, surgical and critical-care beds are filled," Theriault said.

Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospital spokeswoman Brenda Wennerberg said the hospital received one patient who was rerouted from Washington County Hospital Sunday evening. Wennerberg said the hospital staff generally expects additional patients when a nearby facility cannot take anyone else.

"We knew. It can happen at any time," she said.

Wennerberg and Frederick (Md.) Memorial Hospital supervisor Karen Rudisill each said they likely would not have to go on red alert at their facilities. However, both said Sunday was a busy day.

"They saw an enormous amount of patients, but we still have beds," Rudisill said.

Rudisill said she was not sure Sunday evening how many patients originally bound for Washington County Hospital ended up at the Frederick facility.

Theriault said Sunday's red alert in the county could not be blamed on one issue.

"I talked to a doctor who said it's just a potpourri of symptoms that has the emergency room filled," she said. "It's everything from chest pain to flu symptoms to anything in between."

On Dec. 29, 2002, a multiday bed shortage arose at the hospital. The most prevalent complaints from patients were symptoms of influenza, especially stomach flu. A Washington County Health Department spokesman indicated that poor attendance at flu clinics/vaccinations may have contributed to the rush.

Theriault said she did not know if the hospital has been on red alert or trauma bypass status since.

Theriault said the winter season generally is a busy time of year for hospitals and the most likely time for a red alert.

Theriault said she did not believe such alerts were the primary reason behind the Washington County Health System's proposal to build a new hospital at a Robinwood Drive site. However, she did say a new facility could help circumvent such problems because of the proposed increase in emergency room beds from 28 to 53.

The Herald-Mail Articles