ERs prep for New Year’s

Published 10:27 pm Thursday, December 29, 2011

On New Year’s Eve, some people tend to overdo it, and their overindulgence can lead to trips to the emergency room.

While most people are sipping bubbly, dancing and enjoying the last minutes of 2011, the staff at Sentara’s emergency rooms in Suffolk will be readying themselves.

Alissa Petrauska, emergency department director at Sentara Obici Hospital and Sentara BelleHarbour, said emergency rooms take extra care to prepare for New Year’s Eve.

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“Christmas and Thanksgiving days tend to be slower for us,” she said. “New Year’s is typically one of our busier days.”

Petrauska said both emergency departments will have extra workers on hand for the night.

“We staff above our typical level,” she said. “It can be anywhere from nine to 10 nurses.”

Unsurprisingly, alcohol is the main reason they need more staff on New Year’s Eve.

“We do see an increase in vehicle accidents and alcohol-related complaints,” she said.

Many of the vehicle accident cases are sent to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, but Obici is able to treat less serious injuries.

However, Petrauska said, a lot of people come to the emergency room complaining of nausea and dizziness after a night of heavy drinking.

“If they aren’t big drinkers and they choose to get liquored up, we’re probably going to see them,” she said.

These extra patients can create a problem for the ERs, though, because if they are too drunk to drive, the hospital has to keep them until they get a ride home.

“If we get an influx of other patients, they do take up space that sick people need,” Petrauska said.

However, tipsy people aren’t the only patients filling the ERs this time of year.

Petrauska said emergency departments also see a lot of children and older people this time of year who caught viruses while being around so many family and friends for the holidays.

To stay out of the emergency room, she said, start by using good judgment on New Year’s Eve about how much you drink.

“Make good choices about what you choose to do,” Petrauska said.

Additionally, she said, people should make sure they wash their hands and be careful about the people they come into contact with who might be sick.