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Red and yellow alerts lifted at Meritus Medical Center

December 15, 2010|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The new Meritus Medical Center remained on red and yellow alerts until Wednesday afternoon because of an unusually high volume of patient visits, hospital spokeswoman Nicole Jovel said.

Meritus, located east of Hagerstown, was placed on yellow alert, meaning all of the emergency room beds were full, at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

It was put on red alert, meaning all of its telemetry-monitored beds were full, at about the same time. Both alerts were lifted at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Jovel said the Emergency Department had a record-high 250 patients on Monday and 235 patients on Sunday. The numbers for Tuesday were unavailable.

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Based on its history, the emergency room typically has 195 patient visits per day, Jovel said. She said hospital officials aren’t sure why the hospital is seeing so many patients.

“We're seeing a large volume of people,” Jovel said. “It can't be attributed to one thing.” Even though emergency vehicles were taking patients to other hospitals, Jovel said Meritus would continue to see patients who enter the emergency room on their own.

“We won't turn anyone away,” she said.

Meritus Medical Center opened on Saturday after Washington County Hospital closed the same day.

Washington County Hospital had 35 emergency room beds, and Meritus has 53 beds in its Emergency Department, Jovel said. She said the state regulates the number of beds that Meritus Medical Center can offer to patients.

“Meritus Medical Center, just like all other Maryland hospitals, is regulated by the state of Maryland in a number of ways, including in the number of hospital beds we are able to utilize in our facility,” Jovel said in an e-mail.

“We received a certificate of need from the state which allows us to have 267 inpatient beds in our facility.” Jovel said illegal parking in the medical center's lot also continued to cause problems.

“We are attempting to get in touch with them to move to appropriate parking spaces by contacting them directly and/or by using the overhead paging system,” she said. “If these efforts do not resolve the issue, for the safety of our visitors and staff, we may have to resort to towing these vehicles.”

In addition to the parking problem and unexpected influx of patients, Meritus Medical Center experienced a few other glitches during its first several days of operation.

Jovel said the hospital's Medical Information Technology System, which documents the medical history of patients, was down for about an hour Tuesday before it was fixed.

On Wednesday, the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. and the First Hagerstown Hose Co. were called to the hospital for a possible fire. Jovel said the problem was traced to a smoke detector that malfunctioned. “There was no smoke, no fire, and no one was evacuated from Meritus Medical Center,” Jovel said.

“Our policy is for fire personnel to evaluate any potential situations before we call the ‘all clear.’ We called the ‘all clear’ shortly before 2:20 p.m.”

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