‘It could’ve been catastrophic’: Kemp tours Grady hospital flood damage

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp looks over a mobile hospital after touring the damaged cause by a broken water main at Grady Memorial Hospital on Monday. (Photo by Phil Skinner).
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp looks over a mobile hospital after touring the damaged cause by a broken water main at Grady Memorial Hospital on Monday. (Photo by Phil Skinner).

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Departments affected by flooding included postpartum care

Governor Brian Kemp on Monday got a firsthand look at the aftermath caused by flooding at Grady Memorial Hospital, two weeks after a water pipe burst and shut down almost a third of the hospital’s rooms.

After touring the three floors affected by the flood Kemp described the damage as “severe, as you can imagine.” Grady has said the damage could take three months to repair.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp holds a press conference flanked by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Johnson (left) & Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Jackie Herd inside a mobile hospital after touring the damaged cause by a broken water main at Grady Memorial Hospital. (Photo by Phil Skinner).
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp holds a press conference flanked by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Johnson (left) & Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Jackie Herd inside a mobile hospital after touring the damaged cause by a broken water main at Grady Memorial Hospital. (Photo by Phil Skinner).

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

“When I first heard ... that a 24-inch water main had busted,” Kemp said, “I didn't have to understand what the damage was gonna be like — I knew. If you pour a gallon of water out on the floor, it’s a lot. So water coming out of a 24-inch water main literally destroys streets when it happens underground.”

Kemp also got a look at Grady’s new mobile hospital unit, which just opened Monday. It was shipped in from North Carolina after Kemp declared a state of emergency in Fulton County as a result of the flooding.  The mobile ER sits in the hospital’s ambulance bay outfitted with 13 hospital beds currently, but can fit up to 30.

The tour of the damaged floors was not open to the media.

The governor said the Dec. 7 flood inside the hospital “could’ve been catastrophic,” since it happened the day 100,000 people were in town for the SEC Championship game at  Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Kemp thanked state officials and hospitals around the city for reacting quickly to the situation. He said Georgia Power provided a generator after part of the hospital lost power, and Home Depot sent equipment to Grady, including fans to dry damaged walls and floors. Other hospitals continue to take in patients Grady does not have the space for.

The cause of the pipe break is still under investigation, Grady said. Hospital spokeswoman Denise Simpson said the water pipe was located between the sixth and seventh floors. When it burst, water flooded down onto the fourth, sixth and fifth floors.

When a pipe burst at Grady Memorial Hospital on Dec. 7, it had to divert patients to other metro Atlanta medical centers.
When a pipe burst at Grady Memorial Hospital on Dec. 7, it had to divert patients to other metro Atlanta medical centers.

The hospital’s postpartum department, a nursery space for new mothers and their babies, is located on the fourth floor and had to be moved as a result of the flooding, Simpson said. The other damaged floors housed general medical-surgery patients.

About 220 of the hospital’s 700 rooms remain out of commission.

Even with the mobile ER unit, Grady's emergency room is not accepting a regular patient load, but is treating trauma, stroke and burn patients. Grady, which normally sees 450 emergency patients each day, is now able to treat about 320 a day.

Other Atlanta hospitals are continuing to feel the impact of the incident at Grady.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp talks to Grady's Michelle Wallace inside the mobile ER unit. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp talks to Grady's Michelle Wallace inside the mobile ER unit. (Photo by Phil Skinner)

Credit: Photo by Phil Skinner

Credit: Photo by Phil Skinner

Emory, Northside Hospital and Piedmont Healthcare each said their hospitals accepted about 30 patient transfers from Grady shortly after the flooding. They said it’s hard to quantify the overall effect Grady’s emergency room diversion had on their operations, because they do not track which patients in their ERs would have gone to Grady.

This is already a busy time for hospitals, with flu season beginning and patients choosing to have surgeries before the end of the year.

For almost a week after the pipe burst, Grady’s ER went on total diversion, meaning ambulances were told to not to bring patients to a hospital that advertises itself as the busiest trauma center on the East Coast.

Since then, the crisis level has decreased, as Grady set up a 911 command center that assesses where ambulances should take patients and has coordinated more than 3,100 calls.

The hospital has not released an estimate for how much repairs could cost, but experts said it should be a costly ordeal. Cleaning water damage from hospitals can involve replacing walls to ensure mold and other infections do not develop.

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