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SE Conn.'s 2 hospitals improving storm planning

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — Southeastern Connecticut's two hospitals are working on ways to improve planning for destructive storms.

The Day of New London reports (http://bit.ly/T1hLJo ) that Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London and The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich have spoken with staff since Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29 to develop improvements, particularly in the immediate aftermath of storms.

"One of the lessons we continue to learn is that it really isn't just about the storm itself, it's the aftermath that can be really taxing on health care institutions," Shawn Mawhiney, spokesman for Backus, said. "The key is planning and preparation beforehand."

Ron Kersey, emergency management coordinator at L&M, said the emergency departments treated patients with chronic conditions that flared up due to the anxiety and stress of the storm and evacuating their homes.

After the storm, patients came to both hospitals' emergency departments with cleanup-related injuries and carbon monoxide poisoning from unsafe generator use. The hospitals also treated numerous residents who lost power but needed electricity to run breathing machines or other medical equipment.

Kersey said that in some cases, patients did not know they could have gone to one of the region's emergency shelters where they could plug in their machines. Medical volunteers and nurses would have been on hand to check on them, he said.

He said he hopes to work with local emergency management officials to identify long-term care facilities that could take people with specials needs during an emergency and let patients know those facilities are available.

Another improvement he identified is to set up a shelter at the hospital for pets of staff members and children or elderly parents who can't be home alone. Some staff members wanted to stay over but couldn't because of responsibilities to care for children or elderly parents, Kersey said. If the hospital had an emergency shelter, "we would relieve them of that anxiety, and they'll be more focused on their jobs and taking care of patients."

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Information from: The Day, http://www.theday.com

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