Sumter Hospital has severe damage

March 5, 2007

Americus --  Surveillance Video from Sumter Regional Hospital shows just how violent the F-3 tornado was that struck the hospital Thursday night. More than 600 people who worked at the hospital are now trying to clean up that damage.

From the outside, it looks like broken windows but inside the hospital it's quite a different story.

From the outside the hospital doesn't look that bad, it's still standing, some windows are broken, but otherwise it's alright. Inside we learned it's quite a different scene, walls are bowed, or missing in some cases, debris litters the hallway and now you're going to see what it looked like here that night.

Hospital Surveillance cameras caught the tornado as it approached. You can see the wind building, power lines arching, and eventually wind rain and debris rushing past the cameras in hospital hallways. Glass now litters the hallways like crystal.

"The building was shaking, windows were rattling and everything was going on in the room and I just prayed, I called on the Lord and God kept us and protected us," said Rev. Michael Coley, Hospital Board Member.

Reverend Coley's granddaughter, Taylor, was born the night before on the third floor, one of the most heavily damaged areas.

Coley protected his family as the storm rushed into his daughter Yolanda's room. "We kind of hovered over each other in the corner and you can see by the bathroom that was the only thing really protecting us, was the corner because everything in the room, the glass was flying."

There was a patient inside room 231 at the hospital, where the clock on the wall stopped at the time of the storm, about 9:27, the board nearby came from somewhere else in the neighborhood.

"There's not just windows that are gone, walls are gone, ceilings are gone, you think you can get through somewhere you've got to be careful that there's a floor underneath you," said RN Case Worker Jeanette Wheeler.

Much of the hospital staff is now sifting through the debris, trying to salvage what they can of the equipment and supplies. It's a hard task especially when what were familiar hallways just four days ago, seem so foreign now.

"I know the hospital pretty well and I had to retrack my steps and I just can't believe this," said Comfort Green, VP Communications.

After seeing that video it's hard to believe that no one was seriously injured at the hospital. Monday crews were trying to save what they can, they think much of the equipment can be salvaged, but areas like Physical Therapy where the ceiling caved in, equipment there will likely have to be replaced.

There will be a mandatory Meeting for all hospital employees Tuesday, March 6th. There will be two sessions at 2:00 p.m. and another at 5:00 p.m. and employees can attend either session.

The meeting will be held at the Convocation Hall of the Student Success center at Georgia Southwestern State University.

While Sumter Regional Hospital is unusable, a temporary Emergency Room is now set up to treat minor injuries and stabilize emergencies for transport.

The nearest medical facility is 20 miles away at Flint River in Montezuma, so to deal with emergency treatments, crews were putting the finishing touches on the temporary ER across Mayo Street from Sumter Regional Hospital. The 50 bed facility can handle anything the ER would normally deal with.

"We'll have capabilities for 23 hour observation for patients that need IV fluid or antibiotics we will have capability for labs, lab tests and X-Rays," said ER Director Dr. Ben Andrews. "We'll have OB Obstetrics monitoring capabilities, we won't have surgical capabilities."

The Temporary ER will be up and running Tuesday. So far the medical staff in Americus has dealt with minor cuts and scrapes and some broken bones.