The other day, I asked for an update about the number of opiate-related overdoses that our ED has treated from January 1, 2016 through June 30, 2016. There have been a total of 198 overdoses, with 142 being opiate or heroin related. Those 142 overdoses have resulted in 26 deaths. For emphasis, that’s 26 sons, daughters, moms and dads who have died due to an overdose of heroin. If the police, and now the public, didn’t have Narcan to be administered when an overdose occurs, the death rate would be much higher.
Our ED is treating practically an overdose per day. But, if it was only that easy. On July 12, our ED staff treated five heroin overdoses in one evening. As you can see, our July numbers aren’t even reflected in the total for the first half of calendar year 2016.
Our ED staff and our EMS providers throughout the region are now dealing with an absolute crisis in our community. On the evening of July 12, our staff not only dealt with the five overdoses, but also with nine behavioral health patients, a series of critical care patients and a host of other patients with a variety of emergent needs in our ED. We were forced to go on diversion sending patients to another ED for a period of time with our staff being overwhelmed with a full ED and waiting room. That diversion put a significant burden on the EMS community, which then had to travel much farther to an ED outside of Cumberland.
To demonstrate just how significant our ED has changed, last weekend a Cumberland police officer was attacked outside our hospital when he went to question an individual who was wanted in another county. Both the police officer and the suspect were treated in our ED. The suspect came into the ED in a rage, knocking over a computer on wheels and threatening staff. Such behavior is fast becoming an almost everyday occurrence as our ED staff and providers are being spit upon, threatened and assaulted.
We now have an armed police officer in our ED from 7 PM to 3 AM every day. We are reaching out to our ED staff and providers to get their input as we reassess security in the ED. Knowing that an armed police officer is in our ED during peak times previously gave some comfort; however, that now isn’t even enough. Our staff are dealing with challenging patients morning, noon and night. We will be having an upcoming ED Summit to determine what changes need to occur to enhance the safety and security of our patients and staff.
So, the next time you hear how long someone had to wait in our ED or the staff could have been nicer, please understand what these ED professionals are dealing with each day. In no way am I condoning having anything less than a professional, courteous staff in the ED for our patients, but I am trying to enhance the community’s awareness of what has become a typical day in our Emergency Department.