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Cleanup continues after massive floods

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Updated: May 23, 2013 6:38AM



Morris Hospital officials estimate the cleanup costs at $1 million after floodwaters forced evacuation and patients being cared for at other hospitals.

The waters only reached a height of about 3 or 4 inches after they cascaded in from the swamped loading dock, but that was enough to force officials on Thursday to relocate 47 patients, hospital spokeswoman Janet Long said Sunday morning.

Of those 47 patients, 22 were ruled well enough to be discharged, Long said. The remaining 25 patients were sent to six other hospitals.

Fifteen went to St Joseph’s Medical Center in Joliet and six to Silver Cross in New Lenox. Loyola Medical Center received one patient, as did hospitals in Kankakee, Pontiac and Ottawa, Long said.

“All the hospitals are set up in regions to help each other. You’re never alone. Once we decided to do this, ambulances were lined up outside Thursday. Moving the patients was the easy part. The most important thing is our patients are in a safe environment,” Long said.

She and hospital president and CEO Mark Steadham led an early-morning Sunday tour of the soggy lower level.

Steadham said he expects the cleanup to last a week. About 40 workers from Servpro cleaning service were there Sunday, he said.

“Throughout the week, they wil have 60 to 80 people every day. They will work 24 hours a day until the work is done,” Steadham said.

About 75,000 square feet must be cleaned, Long said.

About 25,000 square feet of carpeting must be replaced, Steadham said

Drywall that soaked up the water must be removed and replaced to a height of about 2 feet above the floor, Steadham said.

The lower level is where the hospital’s kitchen is located and, perhaps more important, the hospital’s lab that quickly provides test results needed to properly care for patients who are in-house, Long said.

“The lab is the priority, that’s where our main focus is right now,” Long said. “We need to have the ability to process tests on-site for patient care.”

Until the lab is cleaned and ready for use, testing can’t be done there.

An industrial hygeneist will eventually be asked to certify with the Illinois Department of Public Health that it’s safe to return. The stale, humid smell of flood waters still hung in the air Sunday. Long plastic tubes hung from ceilings, pumping in clean dry air to force out the humid air, Long said.

The hospital will resume offering outpatient lab testing and the majority of its diagnostic cardiac, imaging and pulmonary testing services Monday, according to a news release. Such services were unavailable since Thursday’s flooding.

In addition, the Braidwood, Channahon, Dwight, Gardner, Marseilles, Minooka, Morris and Newark health care centers will all return to normal operations Monday.

The ER has remained open to walk-in patients, but ambulances are diverted to other hospitals.

Flooding reminded personnel of a 2008 storm when the parking lot filled with water. But water did not enter the building through the loading dock as it did Thursday, Long said.

The water was about 7 feet deep in the part of the loading dock where trucks back in to drop off supplies, Steadham said. The water crested the dock and began seeping inside, he said.

“Once the temporary dike we had built gave way, the water just came rushing down toward the dock,” Steadham said.

Over in Channahon, which like Morris had extensive flooding, residents of 43 homes who live near a dam on the DuPage River were evacuated from their homes as a precaution. They have returned safely, Mayor Joe Cook said.

The cleanup continued Sunday under bright blue and sunny skies, Cook said.

“Folks are trying to get their lives back to normal,” Cook said.

“We haven’t had anything like this since 1996 when a man died. We get complacent. We had the drought last year. We’ve had some rains before, some were quite bad, but not like this,” Cook said.

The mostly earthen dam was shored up, preventing a dreaded breach that could have proven disastrous, Cook said. But work is needed to make temporary repairs more permanent, the mayor said. He plans to seek state and federal funding if available.

Once the flood water recedes, Cook expects volunteers will rally to clean up areas like Channahon State Park, located near the dam.

“We take a lot of pride in our town,” Cook said.

Illinois State Police reported no flooding problems Sunday.



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