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Hospital keeps working on holiday

POSTED: December 26, 2013 12:49 a.m.

Doctors and nurses work the emergency department Christmas Day at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

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Many people see Christmas as a day of compassion and care that is spent with family, free from their workplaces.

But urgent and ongoing medical care needs make Christmas Day a busy time of the year for one group of employees — the staff at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

On Wednesday afternoon, Barry Cape, an emergency room nurse, had been in the hospital since 3 a.m..

“I worked yesterday, too,” he said, with a smile.

Cape said some people choose to work on Christmas, particularly in consideration of the family lives of other employees.

“My kids are grown, so we give a lot of our nurses with kids the day off if we can,” he said.

Emergency medicine specialist Dr. Mohak Dave, in the midst of an eight- to nine-hour shift, had squeezed in a little family time.

“I worked Christmas Eve, but spent the morning with my family,” he said.

“This is actually one of our busier days,” Dave said. “Christmas actually has one of the highest fatality rates of the year.”

There are fewer options for the sick needing care, he said.

“A lot of that is because there’s less access to health care in the community,” Dave said. “Doctor’s offices are closed; there’s limited hours of urgent care. So people are coming into the (emergency room) for care.”

“We’re staffed as we would be any other day — we don’t decrease our staff,” he added.

The ER had no shortage of patients, he said.

“We’re seeing our usual heart attacks, strokes; we see a lot of elderly patients that fall; there’s a lot of flu; we’re seeing a lot of folks from out of town,” he said.

For the staff, working on Christmas is a more expected — and accepted — routine.

He was more concerned with the patients’ feelings about being sequestered to the hospital on the holiday.

“We try to make the day as special as possible,” he said. “We do understand that for our patients, it’s especially difficult for them to be here as patients on Christmas Day.”

Indeed, while there weren’t chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the spirit of Christmas cheer ran high at the hospital.

On the sixth-floor surgery ward, an elegant Christmas tree punctuated the purple- and green-themed decor. In the cardiac ward, nurse Greg Adams entered information into a festive mobile chart station adorned with reindeer ears.

Susan Fraser, a nurse in charge of the intensive care unit, thought of a creative way to explain to her kids when they were younger why they celebrated early.

“I tell my kids Santa has a lot of deliveries to make so he comes early to our house,” Fraser said.

Nurse supervisor Mary Nimtz said it’s not just nurses who are needed to accommodate the community’s health needs on Christmas.

“Lots and lots of people staff the hospital in the holidays,” she said. “We couldn’t keep going without the ancillary staff — our support services. It’s how we turn beds, clean, pharmacy. Everybody works the holidays.”


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