Wednesday, February 14th, 2007
Storm challenges emergency personnel
By Margie Wuebker
Hospitals, nursing homes and rescue squads faced a challenge as blizzard-like conditions slowed travel to a snail's pace in Mercer and Auglaize counties on Tuesday.
And hotels and motels throughout the area kept their doors open for people who chose not to brave treacherous roadways.
Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater began implementing its emergency plan Monday as forecasters warned of heavy snow and blizzard-like conditions.
"We started making contacts then to see who would be available," said Lisa Klenke, vice president of patient care services and director of nursing. "We have an emergency preparedness plan that covers such things as tornadoes, accidents with multiple injuries and even blizzard conditions."
Some employees, who made it to the hospital for first and second shift, remained on site. Others showed up early while four-wheel drive vehicles delivered other essential personnel.
"We housed 30 staff members who worked a variety of shifts in various departments," Klenke said. "We had beds or cots set up everywhere and other necessities like food and toothbrushes."
Law enforcement agencies as well as emergency management personnel offered to bring in physicians if needed. However, a doctor was already at the hospital due to 24-hour physician coverage in the emergency room.
The emergency room remained relatively quiet, with Klenke reporting a few runs between Tuesday afternoon and this morning. No babies decided to put in unexpected appearances.
The hospital has a lighter load than usual today since prospective patients had the option of canceling elective surgeries and various outpatient procedures.
A similar management plan was enacted at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys, and there were reportedly no major emergencies.
Nursing homes also sent four-wheel drive vehicles for personnel while nurses, aides and kitchen staff remained after completing their first- and second-shift duties.
"Our staff works well together," said Gwen Weidenhammer, social services employee at Heritage Manor Nursing Center in Minster. "We have 102 residents who rely on them."
Residents gathered near large windows to watch blowing snow, recalling their own wintertime experiences.
"A lot of them hit their beds at 9 p.m.," Weidenhammer said. "Early risers were back at the windows this morning."
Staff members at The Laurels of Shane Hill near Rockford also rallied in the wake of the blizzard, with many staying overnight including the administrator and director of nurses.
Some personnel on first shift arrived for work and others had to be picked up via the facility's four-wheel drive Suburban.
"We landed in the ditch a couple of times but we completed the transport mission," said maintenance director Steve Schaaf. "After all this is a nursing home and the residents here need 24-hour care."
The Celina Fire Department had extra personnel on duty throughout the night with staffing scheduled to return to normal levels at noon today.
Four rescue runs were made between Tuesday and early today. The city provided a snowplow to precede the ambulance on at least two of the calls.
"We carry an extra person and snow shovels on board in weather like this," Wolters said. "We had to do some shoveling at one location."
Business was brisk at local motels. Kathy Winkle, general manager at America's Best Value Inn in Celina, reported people came trickling in throughout Tuesday with a 63 percent occupancy rate.
"The people are very nice and patient," Winkle said. "The only problem is all the drifts in the parking lot this morning."
The Holiday Inn Express of Celina had several occupied rooms as travelers left snow-swept roadways in favor of warm rooms and comfortable beds.
"Several people who were scheduled to leave Tuesday simply lengthened their stay," said guest services manager Liz Block. "It looks like things will improve today."