A few hours before a tornado touched down Tuesday night in Ottawa, a southwest Chicago suburb, frontline staff at OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center was preparing to receive a score of patients injured in the aftermath.
Two people were killed in Illinois when several tornadoes and severe thunderstorms roared through the state Tuesday night, according to several media reports. It is unclear how many have been injured due to the severe weather conditions. The National Weather Service said it received 20 reports of tornadoes or possible twisters on Tuesday from parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Tennessee.
OSF St. Elizabeth was the closest hospital to the affected sites in Ottawa and nearby Naplate. Its staff treated 14 patients throughout the course of the night for storm-related injuries.
As the storm approached, OSF St. Elizabeth implemented its emergency operations plan, a practice that involves calling in more staff, communicating with nearby hospitals and transporting patients from ER beds to other floors.
The plan is practiced several times a year by OSF St. Elizabeth staff, and President Ken Beutke said the preparations paid off. “Even though there was a high level of activity, there was a sense of calmness and organization" among our staff, he said.
Two patients were transferred to OSF St. Francis in Peoria, Ill., because their injuries were extensive, Beutke said. That hospital is about 80 miles from St. Elizabeth. All the other patients have been released.
Beutke said he expects more people will be admitted throughout Wednesday as a result of the storm.
OSF St. Elizabeth, part of Peoria-based OSF HealthCare, has nine ER beds. In preparation for possible overflow, some patients were moved from their ER bed and transferred to other floors shortly before the storm.
Beutke said the hospital never reached full capacity throughout the night, but it would have been prepared if additional help had been needed. OSF St. Elizabeth works closely with nearby hospitals, which include OSF St. Paul's Medical Center in Mendota, Ill., and Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru, Ill.
“You need to know what your resources are within the community, who to contact,” Beutke said.
Emergency transportation units began sending patients to OSF St. Elizabeth around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, which was right around the time staff began to switch shifts. Many workers opted to extend their shift to help deal with an excess of patients, Beutke said.
Patients continued to arrive at OSF St. Elizabeth throughout the evening. Staff treated patients with fractures to the head, knee and arms. Other patients were injured by falling tree limbs or while driving if they couldn't see because of heavy rain and low visibility.