Ambulances slip, slide their way to deliver care

Medics walk if they must down snow-blocked streets

February 07, 2010|By Andrea K. Walker |

Area hospitals and hospice centers began preparing days ago for the task of getting employees into work despite a large snowstorm - and put those plans into effect Saturday.

Hospitals, including Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland Medical Center, put up doctors, nurses and other essential staff in hotels or on air mattresses and cots at their own facilities. They sent out four-wheel-drive vehicles for employees who couldn't get out on their own.

"Our grounds crews were cleaning the roadways around the clock," said Jean Bunker, spokeswoman for Harbor Hospital. "If you're coming in and having chest pains, we don't want to have anything slowing us down from getting to you."

But there are some events you just can't plan for.

The ambulance taking pregnant Torina McQueen of Owings Mills and her fiance, Saeed Hill, to deliver a baby got stuck on the way to Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The driver rocked the ambulance back and forth to free it from the snow. The vehicle kept sliding on Reisterstown Road, making the couple a little nervous. Then the driver had to pull over to clean ice off the windshield wipers.

The couple eventually made it to the hospital and safely delivered their first child - a boy named Tyson - at 1:34 p.m., two days early.

"I just didn't want her to have our baby in an ambulance," Hill said.

Ambulances and medic units slipped and slid their way to citizens in need of emergency care as the snowstorm put up obstacles for anybody in the business of treating the sick.

Union Memorial Hospital President Bradley S. Chambers and other executives ventured out to give employees a ride to work, spokeswoman Debra Schindler said.

Union Memorial also has a hand specialist available during storms because injuries from snowblowers are more common during snowstorms. The storm in December resulted in the hospital treating 12 amputees or near-amputees because of snowblower injuries, Schindler said.

Since the storm fell on a weekend, there weren't many non-emergency surgeries performed Saturday. Cases at emergency rooms were also lighter than normal, since as much as 80 percent of daily patient traffic can be people who drive themselves in, hospital officials said.

Gilchrist Hospice Care treats about 450 cancer patients at their homes. On Wednesday, the staff began taking extra medication and supplies such as hospital beds and oxygen to patients. They brought some people to the facility's inpatient center. On Saturday, staff counseled patients by phone because the roads were too treacherous to drive.

"I've never seen the weather this bad," said Regina Bodnar, clinical director at Gilchrist. "But we did what we needed to so we could meet the needs of our patients."

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