SIKESTON -- Since last week's winter storm, the daily number of patients visiting Missouri Delta Medical Center's emergency room has tripled. Hospital officials anticipate it will only get busier as more people arrive to assist with power restoration and debris removal.
"We've been seeing about 70 to 80 patients in ER per day -- triple the normal -- since the storm," said Charles Ancell, MDMC administrator.
Registered nurse Joy Cauthorn, who is the safety disaster planner for MDMC, said there have been 11 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, mostly to Sikeston residents but some have been from Charleston and Vanduser.
"The incidents have occurred as companies are setting up pallets of generators, and some people have been burning charcoal in garages or in their sun rooms for heat," Cauthorn said.
At least three of the carbon monoxide poisoning cases were transferred to hospitals in Cape Girardeau, with one patient in critical condition, Cauthorn said.
"We're also seeing more and more injuries, and the volume and patient load in the ER will continue to increase with significant injuries," Cauthorn said. "With the city getting full of people dispatching themselves to offer assistance, such as tree removal, we anticipate more injuries."
Full power returned about noon Saturday to the Sikeston hospital, which had been running off generators since the winter storm, Ancell said. As of 10 a.m. Sunday, most doctors' offices were still operating with generators, the hospital administrator said.
Hospital staff are also operating a shelter on hospital premises to assist residents on oxygen and have no electricity in their homes to hook up their equipment to an outlet.
"The maximum number of people we've had in there is 25," Cauthorn said. "We've provided people with oxygen and meals and manned it primarily with our staff."
However, staff from the Scott County Health Department helped operate the shelter Saturday and Sunday.
The shelter was set up with a National Oxygen Kit from from Missouri Hospital Association and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
"We have plenty of oxygen," Cauthorn said. We hopefully will be seeing those people return home because their electricity has been restored."
Cauthorn said it's her understanding that even though a section of town may have electricity, some of those houses may still be without power.
"So we have to check each home and make sure the power has returned before sending anyone (from the shelter) home," Cauthorn said.
A disaster medical assistance team which consists of six nurses, one paramedic and one emergency room physician were organized through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Two team members were expected to arrive at the hospital midmorning Sunday.
"We are worn down,"Ancell said about hospital staff. "We've had people here the whole time (since the storm began). Most of us can't go home and shower (because there is no electricity), and we will be really grateful if FEMA can get people in here to offer some assistance."