Midtown Atlanta hospital must divert and move some patients

Emory University Hospital Midtown needs to move some patients and divert ambulances a day after numerous water main breaks left much of Atlanta without water, a spokesperson for the hospital told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.The situation grew so serious by Saturday afternoon, that the hospital — which has about 500 patients hospitalized — doesn’t even have enough water pressure to flush toilets and is forced to rely on bottled water for all water needs.Credit: TAYLOR CARPENTER / AJCCredit: TAYLOR CARPENTER / AJCThe emergency department at Emory University Hospital Midtown is on diversion for ambulance traffic, with the exception of patients having urgent heart problems. Dr. Adam Webb, chief operating officer of Emory Midtown, said patients walking in or driving to the emergency department are still being accepted and cared for as usual.About 10 patients who need dialysis have been transferred to other Emory hospitals for treatment. Dialysis is dependent on the pressure of a local municipal water supply.“Health care is challenging enough to care for patients in a hospital,” said Webb, who is also a neurocritical care specialist, in an interview, “and when you add to that, not having water, not being able to flush toilets and other things. Things that are an annoyance at home are really a true challenge and make the job that much more complex.”Much of Atlanta, including all of downtown, has been without water since Friday afternoon after crews began work to repair breaks on a 48-inch and 36-inch transmission line below Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. As the hours ticked by, the problems mounted.Webb said they made the decision late Friday evening around 11 p.m. to begin to divert ambulance traffic.Webb said pallets of bottled water were stacked up throughout the hospital. He said they are “trying to maintain the status quo” as long as possible with the patients they have, but he said the impact rippling throughout the hospital will only get increasingly difficult the more hours or even days that go by without a reliable source of municipal water.Most outpatient doctor’s appointments, such as oncology and radiology appointments, were rescheduled Saturday for another day or were shifted to another Emory location. Some laboratory testing has also been moved to other Emory hospitals.Webb said the Midtown hospital also must carefully transport and sanitize medical equipment at other Emory facilities during this water outage. And MRI testing is also affected, he said. The magnet inside the MRI machine needs constant cold running water to keep cool and ensure that the medical equipment runs efficiently.Meanwhile, to keep the hospital cool and air conditioning running, 58,000 gallons of water have been brought in via six tanker trucks to use in the hospital’s chillers and cooling towers. The water is being supplied by a local fire department and delivered by a tanker truck company, the hospital said. Webb said he was expecting another shipment by the end of the evening Saturday.Emory University Hospital Midtown said the food services staff is following guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for ensuring safe food preparation, but added that food options are limited for patients, visitors and staff.“We feel very confident that we have been able to maintain safe care and safe conditions,” said Webb. “But this has been very challenging and I think it’s a situation that shows the vulnerabilities in our ability to provide health care based on our infrastructure.”The AJC has reached out to the mayor’s office about the impact of the water outage at Emory University Hospital Midtown and has not heard back as of Saturday evening.Earlier Saturday, Grady Memorial Hospital confirmed the hospital continues to experience low water pressure. Elective procedures remain canceled, but the hospital remains “fully operational and our emergency room is accepting all patients,” according to a statement from Grady administrators late Saturday morning.”Hospital leadership and our facilities team are working directly with our care teams to ensure we maintain the same level of quality medical care for our patients,” the statement said.ExploreCOMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta water outage


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