Crittenden Regional Hospital opens one month after fire

(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Crittenden Regional Hospital opened at 7 a.m. Friday, nearly one month after its' intensive care unit burst into flames.

That fire forced the evacuation of 14 patients and the indefinite closure of the hospital. It took 16,000 gallons of water from the sprinkler system to put the fire out.

Hospital staff registered nurse Chris Gross and his staff moved around excitedly in their newly renovated wing of the facility.

He said knowing other health care providers were serving their patients has been a tough pill to swallow.

"It's been hard you know, small town basically a community here," he said. "We know a lot of the people that come in and we've been taking care of them for years."

A fire in an unoccupied ICU room in June caused a lot of water and smoke damage to the building. Chief Operating Officer Gene Cashman said the area where the fire happened has been abated.

"It's been walled off and it is basically ready for reconstruction and so that phase will happen over the course of August probably," said Cashman. "But it does not impact our ability to treat patients or to see patients that project will come back on line probably in September."

The reopening has been delayed multiple times. Hospital officials say hospitals are held to a much higher standard than other buildings, causing it took take longer to get back up to speed.

Gross and his staff are excited to welcome patients back to Crittenden Regional.

"They were chomping at the bit this week when we started cleaning and getting everything ready," he explained.

Gross said the transition wasn't seamless, so reopening will relieve a lot of stress.

"If you've been to some of the places in Memphis, there's a lot of waiting. I know the ambulances have been out of town when they needed to be here taking care of people, so I think that it's put some stress on some folks," he said.

Before the fire started, the hospital was already having financial problems, but residents voted to pay more sales taxes to help fund it.

Cashman says they hired financial and operational consultants to help determine the best use of resources.

"A fire is a significant event so we brought those planners in to look at how do we plan for the use of those funds and how do we plan for future operations so we can be a stable organization here," he said.

The emergency room takes in up to 70 patients daily.

They run a census of about 40 in-patients and the clinics see up to 100 people a day.

"It's been burdensome on those patients who have chronic conditions who need a hospital," said Cashman.

He said labor and delivery should be back in operation the first of next week. Surgical services should be back in service late next week, but he said everything else is ready to go for patient care.

Crittenden Regional Hospital's primary care clinics, outpatient rehabilitation, home health, and hospice services remained open during the repairs.

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