Provident: ER operations back to normal

December 5, 2009 (CHICAGO) Patients were forced to wait up to 19 hours to get treated in the emergency room at Provident Hospital.

Officials said Saturday afternoon that the emergency room operations were back to normal.

It was 11 p.m. Friday when Provident Hospital had to go on by-pass, meaning their emergency room was full and no longer accepting ambulance runs.

"There are several patients that came in from St. Bernard, etc, because University and Rush went on bypass much earlier, and they were diverted to Provident," said Deirdre Clayton, Provident Hospital spokesperson.

Clayton said as of 5 a.m. Saturday there were two patients that had been waiting 18 and 19 hours each. Unfortunately, other than apologize there was not much they could do, they said.

"We are reassessing their condition every four hours," Clayton said.

The glut happened because, Friday, the steam plant that supplies heat to both the UIC and Rush medical centers broke down, putting both those hospitals on by-pass early in the day. And while no patients were relocated, no new ones were admitted either. Generators and individual space heaters had to be used to keep people warm. And elective surgeries were cancelled at UIC.

The problem began at approximately 9 a.m. Friday with the steam plant at UIC.

Work crews have repaired the problems and all systems are back on line.

"We lost our ability to generate steam. Steam is needed to heat our buildings and provide hot water and it's also need for other systems like sterilization," said Bill Burton, UIC spokesperson.

Rush University Medical Center also uses steam from the UIC plant. So, officials there were trying to cope with the situation as well.

"We have put in to place a lot of plans to mitigate and keep our patients and visitors comfortable throughout this. And of course, [we're] making some contingency plans in case the worst should happen," said Jane Llewellyn of Rush University medical center.

"It's a problem with our facility's electrical equipment that has made it impossible for us to generate steam. So, we're attempting to fix that problem, and we're also making arrangements to bring in emergency generators," said Burton.

The emergency generators were in use Friday evening, in addition to portable heaters.

Hospital staff members were also keeping doors closed to try to keep the heat in.

Interestingly, Rush University Medical Center is in the process of building its own steam plant, but it won't be done for another year.

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