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Hospitals emergency room quiet during storm
But injuries mounted as people got out on the ice
Marc Brown washes off a medical unit at Hall County Fire Station 7 Friday afternoon. Friday was the first chance the crews had to clean up their equipment after a busy week of calls. - photo by Tom Reed

Last week may have netted a record low having nothing to do with winter temperatures.

The number of emergency room cases at Northeast Georgia Medical Center dropped as residents buttoned up in their homes during and immediately following the winter snowstorm, said Kay Smith, the hospital’s emergency department operations manager.

But those figures started inching higher when people began venturing outdoors. A busy midweek case load returned the hospital to its average totals, she said, with Monday’s 126-patient low on Jan. 10 leveling out with a 300-plus patient high two days later.

“In an ER, you’re always looking to staff for the next event that might be a surprise to you. We’ve done that every day since Monday,” Smith said last week. “We were not surprised when we (started seeing) a large volume of patients.”

Area law enforcement and emergency responders reported similar happenings last week, with falls representing a significant portion of weather-related calls.

That many doctors’ offices and dialysis centers closed Jan. 10-11 also resulted in people seeking help in the emergency room. Unusual requests for critical prescriptions and physical assessments related to dialysis patients were handled.

“Those were some of the things we saw that were abnormal for us,” Smith said.

Hall County Fire Services requests for service through the snow and ice event resulted in near average call volumes. But answering those cases took longer to handle because of transportation, said Fire Chief David Kimbrell. And fall reports indeed were higher, especially Wednesday and Thursday of last week.

“The younger folks are out playing in it and falling,” he said at the time. “And the older folks are just out trying to do their major things, and they’re falling.”

A total of 338 calls were made to Hall County Fire Services during the “event” period between midnight Jan. 9 and midnight Wednesday. Of those, 29 were logged as falls. Most of those were weather-related.

During a week considered average, Jan. 2-8, there were 423 total calls with five to 10 nonweather-related falls.

“We’ve been fortunate. The total call volume has actually been lower than normal during the incident,” Kimbrell said. “But the calls we were answering took a lot longer to answer simply because of the (travel conditions). You have to drive a little slower because it was so slick.”

Flowery Branch Police Lt. David Spillers said his officers responded when possible to the medical emergency calls. Falls composed many of the citizen’s complaints. Among those injured was an administrative secretary at the police department who suffered an ankle fracture.

“As people are getting out a little bit more, trying to walk around a little bit and they’re falling and injuring themselves,” Spillers said last week.

Smith credited widespread media reports with keeping many people indoors.
In some cases, calls related to housebound folks were made to police and Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies, too.

“We did have a number of calls where we checked on individuals in our community,” said Col. Jeff Strickland, spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. “Our community policing officer in North Hall checked on a number of elderly people to see if they needed assistance.”

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