On an Easter Sunday where those in this region were sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the South Central Emergency Department team was continuing to evaluate patients who presented with symptoms of the disease, as well as those with other medical conditions. South Central Regional Medical Center’s Ambulance Service, EMServ, received a call at 4:55 p.m. from a patient who was experiencing anxiety and shortly after that the tornado hit. The ambulance service responded immediately to set up triage points at three locations in Jones County–the Shady Grove Fire Department, the Calhoun Fire Department, and Matthews Road.
Wyth Collins, NRP, Director of EMServ, said, “The three triage stations were as close as we could get. Our team treated a large number of walking wounded, however, the area fire department personnel are the ones who should be commended. They went into the damaged areas and brought the injured to us. The most critical patients were on Matthews Road. One of our paramedics took her supplies and jumped on a private 4-wheeler to get in and treat one of the injured while the fire fighters worked to get them out.” Fourteen (14) ambulances staffed by emergency personnel who had worked the day shift, the night shift and others were all called in and responded.
“We transported 6 patients from Matthews Road to the South Central Emergency Department. Two of those were critical. Our Emergency Department team was ready when we arrived and they worked diligently to care for the injured. The Emergency Department nurses and physicians who had worked the day shift stayed, because they knew some of the night shift could not get to work and for those that could, they knew they needed assistance. None of the helicopters from hospitals in the state could fly into the area due to the high winds. Our ambulance service transferred three patients to Forrest General with head trauma,” she continued.
It was a community effort, she said. Fire fighters, the sheriff’s department, other ambulance services, and numerous volunteers did everything they could to help any way possible.
Surgeons responded to the emergency department and some were getting patients out of vehicles and transporting them into the ED to be cared for.
Doug Higginbotham, President and Chief Executive Officer at South Central, said, “Last night was a very difficult night for our county. Many were impacted to varying degrees by the tornado that tore through our community. I came to the hospital shortly after the storm passed through and tried to offer whatever help I could in the ER. There was nothing I could do, because the remarkable team we have in the ER and with EMServ did what they were trained to do. It is without fail that when bad things happen in our community –storms, disease, outbreaks, tragic accidents –our team comes together and provides the necessary care. Last night was no different. In total we treated 31 patients, transferred 5 to Forrest General Hospital, admitted 9, and discharged 17.
“I watched as nurses, radiology techs, ER techs, unit secretaries, physicians, environmental services workers, pharmacy staff, and EMServ staff all worked together to take care of patients. Environmental services staff was called in to help clean rooms; physicians came to help; and other staff stayed over to make sure we were able to meet our patient’s needs. Many selflessly put the patients needs above their own. A couple of events occurred that struck me as the epitome of dedication. The first is Alice Speed, a nurse in our emergency department. Alice had received a call from her father that her house had lost all windows and the roof and her dog was the only thing home. When offered a chance to go home to check on her house and her dog, while she was in tears, she refused to leave the ER, because she said she would not leave while there were patients to be seen. The second is Shelly Davis, a radiology tech. Determined to come into help, Shelly made a 3 hour drive to get into work – circling from north Jones County through eastern Covington County to get to the hospital. EMServ had many stories of walking through damaged areas, across fields, under porches and other areas to reach the wounded. This was a tragic event and one that will be remembered sadly by so many for a long time. For our hospital, I will remember it once again as a time when we stood tall, served our fellow man, and performed flawlessly. I have said before and I will say it again, they are a remarkable team that I am so proud to be a part of and I thank them for all they do,” he concluded.
The healthcare team at South Central is extremely thankful that the new Emergency Department was open to accommodate the large number of patients who arrived within a short time of each other.
There were 6 patients with broken bones and lacerations admitted to South Central last night. Two obstetric patients were admitted for observation. They were released to go home this morning. Several patients have called South Central Orthopedics this morning for treatment of minor injuries.