Water crisis puts Georgia hospital’s emergency plan to the test


One Georgia hospital’s emergency preparedness plan faced major challenges last week as an ongoing city-wide water crisis forced staff to cancel surgical procedures and divert patients to other facilities.

A series of water main breaks across the city in late July contaminated water used by Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville, according to an article from the Union-Recorder. A similar situation occurred in April, according to the article.

In an effort to conserve water and avoid risks to patient safety under a city-wide boil notice, the hospital canceled a number of planned procedures--including one day last week where 17 surgeries were called off, according to the article. Since the first water issues surfaced in April, the 140-bed hospital has diverted “hundreds of patients” to other facilities, its interim CEO Steven Johnson said at a town hall meeting this week to discuss the water problems, the Union-Recorder reported.

The hospital has kept patients in the loop through Facebook, with posts detailing how the hospital planned to tackle care during the ongoing water problems. Elective surgeries, for instance, were cancelled on July 28, the hospital shared on its page, though outpatient procedures like radiology and lab testing were still offered.

The water main breaks have hurt the hospital’s bottom line, Johnson said at the town hall meeting, according to the article. He didn’t elaborate on the financial specifics, but said the hospital was “on a thin margin” in the books for the impacted months.

The resiliency of local hospitals is most crucial after emergencies or natural disasters like the one in Milledgeville, FierceHealthcare has previously reported. In Boston, where a similar water main break caused widespread concern in 2010, Massachusetts General Hospital responded quickly; it stockpiled water bottles, issued cleansing towelettes to allow immunocompromised patients to bath and boiled water in large vats to cook food safely.

- here’s the Union-Recorder article