Last Thursday night, Dr. Bruce Pitts, an executive vice president at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, ND, faced an excruciating decision. His two-campus hospital, the largest in the state, had whittled its patient population down through discharges and transfers as the Red River rose, but 180 patients remained. They included fragile babies in the neonatal ICU, complicated long term acute care adult patients, and high risk obstetrics patients. Moving them would be risky and difficult.
But just hours earlier, the predicted height of the river’s crest had jumped, and Pitts received word that a nearby dyke looked vulnerable. The Department of Homeland Security was encouraging local officials to consider a city-wide evacuation. Once the sun rose on Friday, the roads would likely be clogged with volunteer sandbaggers and residents fleeing town, including those from local nursing homes. If the State mandated an evacuation of all healthcare facilities, Pitts’ hospital, whose service area is roughly the size of the state of New York, would be competing for available ambulances and busses.
Filed under: Weather
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