US hospitals brace for winter storms, put patient safety first

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As winter weather and storms pummel large portions of the country, hospitals nationwide are reviewing their weather and emergency planning policies to put patient and staff safety first, all while combating weather-induced problems like transportation and blood shortages.

University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, which has been operating on a severe weather plan since Monday, and Alabama-based St. Vincent's Health System are keeping in close contact with patients and rescheduling procedures on a case-by-case basis, ABC3340.com reported. Automated systems allow the hospitals to send patients text messages, emails and phone calls to keep them informed about their procedures.

Both hospitals will try to avoid discharging patients during dangerous storm conditions, waiting until roads are clear, according to the article. In addiiton, the hospitals are also prepared to take in non-patients in need of shelter.

Meanwhile, hospitals are finding creative solutions to battle Mother Nature. In Lanham, Md., officials at Doctors Community Hospital are looking for volunteer drivers with four-wheel drive vehicles to transport essential employees to and from its campus, WUSA 9 reported.

Severe weather conditions over the past month forced the American Red Cross to cancel blood drives across the country, raising concerns of potential blood shortages. January donations were down 10 percent nationwide, according to WBIW in Bedford, Ind.

However, in the face of challenges and extreme conditions, healthcare professionals are responding with equal force and caring--putting their patients first.

Hospital staff at Conway Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C., sometimes spend the night to stay with patients, WBTW News 13 reported.

"We don't get extra pay or anything for it," staff member Warren Faulk said. "We just come in and take care of the patients. We've all chosen healthcare as our profession and our business and we go into it and that's just the life we lead and we're used to it."

Recent winter weather has brought out the best in some healthcare workers, like Alabama neurosurgeon Zenko Hrynkiw, M.D., who walked eight miles in a blizzard to perform surgery on a critically ill patient. Trinity CEO Keith Granger told reporters that given the conditions, temperature and terrain, Hrynkiw's journey was a remarkable physical and mental feat. "We have an individual alive today who wouldn't be here if not for his efforts," Granger said.

To learn more:
- here's the WUSA 9 article
- read the WBTW News 13 article
- check out WBIW's report
- here's the ABC3340.com piece

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