Eclipse crowds prompt hospitals to stock up, staff up

Hospitals stocking up vaccines for eclipse

SALEM, Ore. -- The anticipated crowds for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse are putting Oregon hospitals on the defensive.

For the past year, Salem Health hospital officials have been planning, but they say nearly every emergency room will be over capacity.

The Marion County hospital is in the path of totality, and that's why they'll be so busy. All hotel rooms and campsites, Airbnb properties and spare rooms in people's houses are full. Officials say that means more drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning, car accidents, burns, fights and heart attacks.

"The city of Salem expects as much as a half million in the city or around the city, that's our service area That's going to produce a tremendous patient surge," said Salem Health's Wayne McFarlin, who is a former police chief and officer and disaster preparedness specialist. "Lots of people without a lot of restroom facilities, there's tremendous infection potential."

The turnaround area where ambulances drop off patients, will have triage tents for lesser wounds so they don't take up a precious ER bed. There will even be a sobering-up tent for overdoses and alcohol.

McFarlin is planning to put more patient beds in regular check-up rooms. Staff who live out of town are reserving cots to sleep on inside the hospital. And non-essential departments like administration and out-patient offices will close down for the eclipse, anticipating that patients will not want to battle traffic to get there.

"Rather than let those staff go home, we're trying to reassign them to places of high demand like the emergency department and in-patient units," McFarlin said.

Hospitals all over Oregon report they're stocking up on IV fluids and other supplies and medicines. In Central and Eastern Oregon, the Bend Bulletin reports emergency rooms have ordered double the vials of snakebite anti-venom because of the sheer number of tourists coming to outdoor festivals where rattlesnakes live.

There's also the unknown. International tour groups from places like China and Brazil are said to be headed to Oregon. They could carry communicable diseases or be exposed to different viruses than we're used to.

"We're going to have international travelers and because of that we'll have organisms in the area that we aren't typically used to," McFarlin said. He's working with officials at the public health department to prepare for that.

This January's snow storm put Salem Health 20-percent over capacity. The eclipse, is expected to be much more than that.

Hospital officials are telling patients to get prescriptions filled well ahead of time. Traffic and crowds will be terrible so you might get stuck if you run out during the eclipse week.

© 2017 KGW-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment