Columbia hospitals, ambulances run smoothly during storm

Thursday, February 3, 2011 | 3:47 p.m. CST; updated 7:30 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 3, 2011

COLUMBIA — Columbia's hospitals remained open throughout this week’s snowstorm, taking extra measures to ensure patients and staff remained safe.

More than 300 staff members spent the night at Boone Hospital Center on Tuesday. They used empty patient rooms, rooms that are only open in the daytime and slept on cots and mattresses on office floors, said Mary Beck, vice president chief nurse executive.

Mary Jenkins, public relations manager for MU Health Care, said 500 employees stayed overnight Tuesday at three different MU Health Care hospitals.

Beck said when Boone Hospital Center heard about the impending storm, it had its supply truck, stocked with food and linen, come a day earlier than scheduled.

MU Health Care ordered extra medical supplies and food at the beginning of the week to last until the end of this week, Jenkins said.

Beck said Boone Hospital Center has operated well during the storm because of planning.

“I think it’s gone exceptionally well,” she said.

Both Beck and Jenkins said ambulances have been operating as usual, thanks to passable roads.

“The city and the county have done a great job on clearing the main roads,” Beck said.

Zim Schwartze, director of the Public Safety Joint Communications Center, which dispatches ambulances for Columbia's hospitals, said there have been no significant issues with ambulances getting through the snow.

“There have been a lower number of calls (for ambulances) than anticipated,” Schwartze said.

The city clears snow using a priority routing system, with the roads near hospitals labeled priority roads. Each year the City Council reviews the plan to see if streets need to be added or taken out, said Jill Stedem, public information specialist for the Columbia Public Works Department.

In the event that an ambulance encounters a difficult road, drivers work with the city to determine if a snow plow is needed to clear the road, Beck said.

Schwartze said the communications center partially activated the Emergency Operations Center this week, which occurs during disasters. The communications center has had meetings twice a day this week to talk with law, fire and ambulance services.

Boone Hospital Center has seen some accidents related to the storm but no major ones, Beck said.

Jeff Hoelscher, media relations coordinator for MU Health Care, said MU Health Care had seen 16 patients with minor injuries because of falls related to the weather between noon Tuesday and 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Several Boone Hospital Center patients who were scheduled to undergo tests this week have rescheduled, Beck said.

The University Physicians outpatient clinics and Ellis Fischel Cancer Center outpatient clinics were closed on Tuesday and Wednesday for the safety of patients who would have to travel, but they reopened Thursday, Jenkins said.

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