Triangle hospitals prepare for an increase in patients with potential of winter weather

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Triangle hospitals are preparing for the possibility of severe weather this weekend, as they already face record-high patient numbers and staff shortages stemming from the pandemic.

"It's an annual process of preparedness, where we are looking and evaluating how that weather will impact us, making sure our staff are prepared in the event our folks need to stay the night in the hospital to continue to provide care for patients, as well as safe ways to arrive at and depart the hospital," said Dr. Abhi Mehrotra, the Vice Chair of Operations for the UNC Department of Emergency Medicine.

Patients infected with COVID, even if it's an incidental case, need to be separated from other patients, which requires additional resources and staff.

Mehrotra noted that it's typically not during the storm where they see an uptick in patients, but in the immediate aftermath.

"(After the storm), being very careful as you're walking, that's when we see the traumatic-related events of slips and falls, people trying to dig out. And so, making sure that you're being very careful in that scenario in terms of prevention beforehand as you mentioned. Having enough supplies on hand, to ensure you have medications. Food. Any other heat source that is potentially safe" said Mehrotra.

With temperatures set to dip and power outages possible, Dr. Mehrotra warned against utilizing possibly dangerous heat sources.

"The other thing that we see is non-traumatic but still weather-related is trying to use alternative heat sources that aren't safe indoors. So, grills, either charcoal or propane, bringing those heat sources inside can lead to carbon monoxide, and we do worry about that and see that after these kind of weather events, especially with power loss," said Mehrotra.

While hospitals are ready to treat patients in emergency situations, urgent cares are an option for minor injuries and ailments.

Duke Health shared the following statement about its severe weather preparations:

"We manage winter weather events a few times a year most years and have plans in place to make sure we keep our staff, clinicians and patients safe with as minimal impact as possible to patient care. We would encourage everyone to evaluate their local conditions carefully to be sure they don't put their safety at risk."

WakeMed said its emergency departments will be open to all patients, regardless of weather events. A spokesperson added that falls are typically the No. 1 injury they see during winter weather and preached caution if you need to go outside.
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