Columbia-area hospitals say they are not in danger of shutting down in the wake of the catastrophic flooding, though the city’s three downtown medical centers – Palmetto Health Richland, Palmetto Health Baptist and Providence Hospital – were without running water for at least part of the day Monday as the city worked to repair numerous water main breaks.
Water pressure had been restored to the downtown hospitals by Monday afternoon, and thanks to stored water supplies and continuous water shuttling from firefighters, there were no plans to evacuate patients.
While the hospitals are open, services are limited.
Palmetto Health’s Richland and Baptist facilities downtown were accepting only stroke, heart and pediatric patients, as well as critical care patients transported by EMS, according to Steve Shelton, Palmetto Health’s medical director for emergency management. The hospitals were not accepting critical care patients transferred from other medical centers. The hospitals were limiting their surgery schedules to emergency procedures and have limited outpatient procedures.
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The Columbia Fire Department and other local fire agencies have had trucks lined up outside Palmetto Health’s downtown hospitals continuously since midnight Monday, Shelton said, shuttling in water to allow the hospitals to continue to chill their HVAC systems and cool medical equipment. Providence Hospital on Forest Drive also was receiving water from fire officials.
Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday praised the Columbia firefighters as “heroes” for their overnight efforts to transport bulk water to hospitals that were without.
The hospitals have been under the same indefinite boil-water advisories as all of Columbia’s water customers.
The story was different in Lexington County.
“We’re good,” said Jennifer Wilson, a spokeswoman for Lexington Medical Center. Water at its main campus on Sunset Boulevard did not have to be boiled, and despite some employees being unable to come to work because of dangerous conditions at home or on their commutes, the hospital was adequately staffed, she said. On Monday afternoon, about 320 of the hospital’s 414 inpatient beds were filled, which was only slightly higher than the recent average, Wilson said.
“So much goes into disaster preparedness for the hospital,” Wilson said. “Hospitals are always thinking about … the worst-case scenario.”
Restricted water availability posed a problem for area kidney dialysis patients, whose treatments require water. Providence Hospital was not providing dialysis treatments Monday, spokeswoman Kelly Perritt said, but Lexington Medical Center and the Palmetto Health Hospitals were, for in-patients.
Dialysis is a life-sustaining procedure for kidney-failure patients.
Some outpatient dialysis clinics in the downtown area have been redirecting their patients to treatment locations outside of downtown, said Sug Kaiser, the South Carolina regional vice president for American Renal Associates, which has two downtown treatment centers and one in northeast Columbia. Treatment centers also are working to reschedule treatments as soon as possible for patients who were unable to travel to their providers Monday, Kaiser said.
Fresenius Medical Care, which provides dialysis to some 1,200 patients in the Columbia area, will have all of its dialysis centers open on Tuesday. It also plans to run its Columbia Dialysis facility all night Monday and into Tuesday.
Providence’s Forest Drive facility was without running water for the early part of the day Monday but continued to carry out essential patient activities, Perritt said. Its orthopedic care facility in northeast Columbia did not lose water.
Elective procedures at Providence have been canceled, Perritt said.
All of the hospitals had some staff who were unable to make it to work. All, though, said they were able to fill gaps and provide adequate staffing.
Lexington Medical and Palmetto Health officials both said they had set up sleeping arrangements for staff to stay overnight between shifts and were providing transportation to some essential employees.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.