A ‘disaster’ at John Peter Smith Hospital as patient levels skyrocket

John Peter Smith Hospital
John Peter Smith Hospital jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

A crush of patients with serious medical problems requiring admittance in recent days at John Peter Smith Hospital led its administrators on Tuesday to describe the mass of sick people in the emergency department as a burgeoning disaster.

Employees of the hospital’s parent health network who work outside the emergency department were sent there to help. Others who were not scheduled to work were asked to come in.

JPS executives met Tuesday to determine how the hospital would respond to the emergency in its emergency department.

The staffing and scheduling moves occurred under a code yellow crowding level. It was the second patient swell crisis at the Fort Worth hospital in the last four weeks.

With three days remaining in May, the hospital is on pace to see an unprecedented 10,750 patients this month, said Jesse DeWaard, its executive director of emergency management services. The largest number of visits in one day has been 427.

The hospital did not offer information about the nature of the emergency care patients sought, although it said there has also been a record number of people at its psychiatric emergency center.

JPS previously declared a code yellow on April 30. That period of acute overcrowding lasted about two days before numbers dropped and staffing schedules returned to normal.

Although the blitz was felt first in the emergency department, some patients were sent to the hospital’s other sections.

Lance Lynch, the hospital’s director of emergency management, said a high percentage of the patients who have come to the hospital have cases that require an inpatient stay rather than being released after treatment. That is among the reasons resources were overwhelmed, he said.

“About 30 percent of them are being admitted,” Lynch said. “These are not people that we can quickly treat and turn around. They’re more serious cases.”

A typical post-holiday increase may mean the stream of patients will take some time to stanch, Lynch said.

“Holidays are usually a lighter time in the hospital. It’s the days immediately after the holiday when we see the number of people who come in start to increase,” Lynch said. “So, as we move past Memorial Day weekend, we’re likely to see our numbers rise even more.”

The hospital said it used a formula that considers the number of admissions, beds available and wait times to reach an overcrowding score. Of five classifications, “disaster” is the most grave. The JPS emergency department had a score of 298 on Tuesday afternoon. None of the other hospitals in the Fort Worth area had a score higher than 80, JPS said.

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