AP NEWS

Georgia hospital reviews its response to Alabama tornadoes

March 23, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Officials at a Georgia trauma center are reviewing a day this month that began as a slower-than-usual Sunday and ended in one of its busiest days.

Piedmont Columbus Regional Midtown received more than 20 patients as a result of the March 3 tornado outbreak in Alabama and Georgia.

The most powerful of the twisters left 23 dead in the Beauregard, Alabama, area. Dozens more were injured as the storm system roared across Alabama and Georgia.

The Columbus hospital treated patients with conditions ranging from lacerations, broken bones, respiratory distress and head injuries to critical injuries, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.

With gaps in immediate trauma care in rural areas of Alabama and Georgia, it’s not uncommon for Piedmont Columbus Regional to receive trauma patients from many miles away, hospital officials said.

On the morning before the tornadoes struck, the Columbus hospital’s emergency department saw fewer patients than on comparable Sundays, said Michael Zimmermann, executive director of operations and emergency services.

The pace changed dramatically by early afternoon.

Nurses and doctors began seeing patients arrive around 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST, most of them from eastern Alabama. Some patients were injured when their homes were damaged or destroyed, and some were involved in automobile accidents in the affected areas, Zimmermann said.

“We called specific individuals to help us with the types of patients we were anticipating,” Zimmermann said. “So we brought in some leadership, we brought in additional imaging staff, and some of the care team staff that we thought we would need to be here and prepared to receive patients.”

Since the storm struck, Piedmont has focused attention on its employees, many of whom were affected by the storm and its aftermath, the Columbus newspaper reported.

“Our hearts go out to everyone that was impacted and involved,” Zimmermann said. “We had employees that were impacted significantly by this event and we are very concerned about them.”

Hospital officials are now gathering data for a final debriefing on the event.

“We look at that and see if there is anything we could have done differently, better, as far as preparation, as far as the way we responded and mitigated, and absolutely making sure that we’re checking on all those caregivers that provided that care and making sure that they’re whole as well,” Zimmerman said.

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Information from: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, http://ledger-enquirer.com