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Sumter Regional Ready to Rebuild

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March 7, 2007

Americus -- When an F-3 tornado ripped through Americus, it nearly wiped out the town's health care system.

The hospital is uninhabitable.  About a quarter of the doctor's offices nearby were also heavily damaged or destroyed. 

Now, less than a week later, there is progress and Sumter Regional's CEO vows to get the hospital up and running as soon as possible. 

David Seagraves CEO of Sumter Regional Hospital, was on the phone with a hospital employee when the tornado struck. "I was talking with the house supervisor, and during that conversation, if I remember correctly, the phone went dead" said Sumter Seagraves. 

And Seagraves' heart dropped.  As he looked to downtown, he saw the transformers blow and knew that the hospital had been hit. "I couldn't believe the amount of destruction that we had suffered."

When Seagraves arrived at Sumter Regional he had to park half a mile away. The damage was devastating. "We're not able to occupy the facility."

But there were also blessings.  No one in the hospital was killed, despite almost every window being blown out, walls crumbling  and doors being ripped off the hinges. "We were certainly blessed."

And the blessings came in other ways, as Seagraves told Phoebe Putney Board members Wednesday, sometimes while choking back tears.  Nearby hospitals, like Phoebe and Palmyra agreed to take patients.  By 1:00 AM, each one was out of the damaged structure. "Patient safety was our number one priority at that time."

Phoebe's CEO, Joel Wernick says, "One of the concerns of the folks in Americus and by extension, Phoebe as a community hospital, is to be whatever assistance we can be to help them get back on their feet."

And remains the top priority.  Structural engineers are currently inspecting the building to find out if it can be repaired or if it must be rebuilt.  That report will come in a few weeks. "I wish I knew today so we could go ahead and take some definitive steps in the directions we need to take."

But other steps are being taken.  A temporary hospital has been set up.  Doctor's offices that were shutdown have reopened in other areas or are being set up with the hospital's help.  And patients, who were transferred to Phoebe can still see their same doctor.

Seagraves wants to stamp out one rumor: the hospital is not closing, and every person employed at the hospital last Thursday still has their job.  They can expect proof of that later this week. "We're expecting to cut paychecks.  We hope to be in a position to pay them this Friday and not miss a beat."

When rebuilding does begin, the top priority for the hospital will be the Emergency Room. 
Meanwhile, Phoebe is granting temporary privileges to doctors treating patients from Sumter Regional. 

Palmyra is also accepting applications from physicians and will fast track them through the credential process.  Many Doctors offices have already been relocated.  

Click here link to Sumter Regional's Emergency website.

 

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