Visitors, some staff evacuated from Meritus after report of smoke odor

All patients, those involved in patient care remained in hospital

May 09, 2012|By DON AINES |

HAGERSTOWN — Dozens of people were asked to wait outside Meritus Medical Center on Thursday afternoon while firefighters tried to determine the source of an odor of smoke.

The source of the odor, originally detected in an operating room at about 12:20 p.m., was not found and people were allowed back into the building an hour after the initial call, Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Dave Fraley said.

There was an operation in progress when the odor was detected, but the procedure completed because staff did not feel there was any immediate danger, said Mary Rizk, director of corporate communications for Meritus Health. However, nonemergency surgeries were canceled as a result of the incident, she said.

“If you weren’t in patient care, you were asked to leave the building,” Rizk said. Patients and staff involved in patient care remained in the 272-bed hospital, she said.

“On any given day, we have about 200 nurses in direct patient care, and they did remain with the patients,” Rizk said.

While the cause of the odor was not found, Fraley said a team of firefighters remained behind after the all-clear was given to conduct a secondary check of the building.

“I’m going to mark it down as a good-intent call,” Fraley said.

Carmen Lawson sat in a wheelchair outside the hospital waiting to be allowed back inside. The Hagerstown woman was visiting her husband, Sheldon, when staff asked her to leave. She did so reluctantly, she said.

“I could have snuck in the bathroom and hid behind the curtain,” Lawson joked.

“The girls were very conscientious. They said, ‘You have to go,’” Lawson said.

Once she got outside, a staff member at the hospital offered her the wheelchair to rest in until people were allowed back inside, Lawson said.

Along with Funkstown, Fraley said units from Hagerstown Fire Department and Long Meadow, Halfway and Mount Aetna fire companies assisted at the scene, along with the Special Operations Unit and Community Rescue Service.

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