Hospitals Prep for Inauguration Crowds

Doctors ready to treat crowd, cold injuries

Like much of the city, D.C.'s medical facilities made special plans for dealing with the inauguration influx.

Included in their preparation, Dr. Janis Orlowski and nurse Susan Eckert planned how their hundreds of Washington Hospital Center employees will get to work Tuesday. Bridges and roads will be closed, and traffic will probably be awful.

"Our primary responsibility is to be here at the hospital and to be fully operational to stand up and be prepared," Orlowski said.

And if the crowds in Washington are as large as some predict, local hospitals will need all hands on deck. That's because experts estimate that with 2 million people gathering at Tuesday's various inaugural events, hospitals will see an additional 200 emergencies in the city.

"We know that our ED's are always crowded on a good day," Eckert said.

The number and types of emergencies will depend on two major factors: weather and the actual number of people in attendance, D.C. Hospital Association President Robert Malson said.

"That's a long time to be out in the cold, so there's all sorts of things that can happen as you can imagine based on the weather, and that's if it doesn't rain or snow," Malson said.

"People fall down," Orlowski said. "People break their legs. People get cold or they stay out in the cold or they get dehydrated."

There will be dozens of additional doctors on staff starting this weekend, and the hospital has been stockpiling additional supplies, said Orlowski, the Washington Hospital Center's chief medical officer. They're also making a facility called the Ready Room available.

"What you see is not something that was planned for or put together for the inauguration," Eckert said. "It is a room that we have designed for a surge or increase in patients."

Eckert works on the hospital's emergency preparedness plans. The Ready Room can handle an additional 15 to 100 patients, depending on the type of emergency, she said. It can be anything from noroviruses to broken bones to chemical contaminations.

"We have different materials and supplies directly related to the most likely situations and events that we would have to manage," Eckert said. "We have carts if there was a biological release of an agent or even a cart if there was a pandemic influenza."

Hospitals are canceling elective surgeries and closing outpatient facilities, even advising pregnant women to plan for alternate routes in case they need medical attention, officials said.

"We are just trying to prepare for anything that might happen," said Malson.

Contact Us