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Heartland residents might return today

February 18, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

o Fire forces evacuation of nursing home

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The administrator of Heartland of Martinsburg nursing home said she expects 110 patients displaced by an electrical fire Tuesday to able to begin returning to the facility by today or Friday.

Nancy Mason said Wednesday night electricians would be working through the night at the 120-bed facility at 209 Clover St. in order to completely restore power and allow for residents to return.

The last of 41 patients who spent Tuesday night at North Martinsburg Middle School were taken from the school's gymnasium to other health-care facilities by Wednesday at 3:15 p.m., Mason said.

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Classes canceled at the school Wednesday because of the emergency were expected to resume on schedule today after the building was thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, Berkeley County Schools officials said.

The fire was contained to a basement level mechanical/power room after it was reported Tuesday about 6 p.m., but smoke still managed to get into patient areas of the nursing home, fire and police officials had said.

Emergency responders needed more than an hour to transport all of the evacuated patients from the nursing home to North Middle School and City Hospital in Martinsburg. The hospital ultimately provided beds for 22 patients and had treated some for minor smoke inhalation, but no serious injuries, officials said.

At least 44 of about 95 patients taken to the school were transported elsewhere Tuesday night, officials said. Eleven were staying with family members, Mason said Wednesday. Heartland's staff were assigned to travel to the various health-care facilities to provide care for the patients while the nursing home was being cleaned, which Mason said was completed Wednesday afternoon.

City Hospital, along with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (16) outside Martinsburg, Willow Tree Manor (11) in Charles Town, W.Va., and Valley View Nursing Home (10) in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., provided more than half of the beds needed.

"The community has just been outpouring with offers of assistance," said Mason, who planned to publicly thank everyone involved in the evacuation in an advertisement.

West Virginia University Hospitals-East spokeswoman Teresa E. McCabe said Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., provided accommodations for another eight patients.

"Of particular note is the level of professionalism displayed (Tuesday) evening by everyone involved with the care of these patients and during interaction with their family members," McCabe said. "I compliment the entire team for a job well done."

Cali Coulthard, spokeswoman for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said officials there helped transport 29 patients by ambulance from the middle school before midnight Tuesday and admitted 16 to the medical center's 178-bed community living center.

"It is rewarding to see all the efforts we put into training and preparation be put into practice so effectively," Todd Lake, the medical center's emergency preparedness coordinator, said in a press release.

Berkeley County Schools buses equipped with handicapped chair lifts joined ambulance vehicles from the Eastern Panhandle, Frederick County, Va., and Washington County, Md., in helping transport blanket-wrapped patients, who were forced to endure the cold weather in wheelchairs, chairs and beds outside the nursing home.

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