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Morris Hospital evacuates patients

Being taken to four other area medical facilities

The evacuation of 47 patients from Morris Hospital was completed by 6:04 p.m. Thursday.

Patients transported to other area hospitals were taken by ambulances that lined the parking lot of the hospital Thursday afternoon. Some patients were able to be sent home or back to nursing homes, instead of being transferred, said Janet Long, public relations manager for the hospital.

Of the 47 patients, 25 were transferred to other hospitals and 22 went home or to their nursing home, she said. Fifteen went to Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center, six to Silver Cross Hospital, and one each to Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center in Ottawa, OSF St. James in Pontiac, and Loyola Medical Center in Maywood.

The hospital had diverted ambulance traffic by late Thursday morning, but was still taking walk-in emergency patients and continues to do so. But if a patient comes in that needs surgery or to be admitted, they will have to be transferred, said Long. All entrances to the hospital except for the main entrance off High Street are closed.

“We are evacuating based on advisement from the (Emergency Management Agency) regarding (Friday) if the river crests,” said Long as the process was beginning Thursday afternoon. “This is something we have to be proactive about and be precautionary.”

Emergency responders, hospital staff and volunteers worked tirelessly Thursday morning and into the afternoon to try to stop water that was already flooding the basement of the medical facility.

People filled sandbags and built a wall with the bags in front of the receiving deck, which managed to slow the water down. But a little after 2 p.m., it was decided to evacuate the hospital in case flooding worsens with increased rain and the rising of the Illinois River and creeks.

“Patient safety is our top priority,” said Long.

Water did not reach patient areas in the hospital, said Long. It was just in the basement of the hospital, which houses the pharmacy, laboratory, cafeteria, medical records and information technology. Long said she did not know how much water had reached the basement.

It took under four hours to evacuate the hospital of patients.

“The successful transfer of our in-patients was the result of a well-coordinated plan involving area hospitals, numerous EMS providers, police, fire, emergency management, and the physicians, staff and volunteers at Morris Hospital, along with volunteers from the community,” said Mark Steadham, president and CEO of Morris Hospital, Thursday evening.

“While we regret having to transfer our patients, their safety is absolutely our top priority. We couldn’t risk waiting to see what happens with the flood waters if the river crests tomorrow as predicted.

In Long’s seven years with the hospital, it has never been evacuated before, she said, although during the 2008 flood, there had been the potential for evacuation. Although the flooding of the campus Thursday was similar to what happened in 2008, it did not come into the building then.

Numerous ambulances and emergency responders were already on scene at the hospital in preparation for an evacuation prior to the decision Thursday. The hospital’s supporting Region 7 hospitals were already made aware of the situation and were prepared to take on Morris’ patients.

How long the hospital would be on bypass was unknown immediately. Long said they would have to see how the water levels are Friday. The hospital will also need time for clean-up. All elective procedures and testing scheduled for Friday were canceled Thursday.

Channahon, Dwight and Marseilles healthcare centers were closed Friday. It’s other healthcare centers, as well as its Minooka and Morris immediate care centers, were open.

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