BY DAN HEATH
SARANAC LAKE — Although no one was hurt in a
boiler-room blast at Adirondack Medical Center Sunday morning, damage from the
explosion made it necessary to move all patients from the Saranac Lake
Hospital President and CEO Chandler Ralph, speaking at a
news conference Sunday afternoon, said all 35 patients were, or will be,
transferred to other area hospitals and health-care
"Although this was a very dangerous situation, staff
reacted immediately to safeguard each and every patient. The incident command
system was extremely effective and, as usual, all staff was on board to assist
in these efforts, including area rescue squads and vendors assisting us in
repairing the damage," she said.
"Kudos also to our medical staff,
who immediately assessed their patients in order to most efficiently and safely
have their patients transferred to the most appropriate
Patients were transferred to CVPH Medical Center in
Plattsburgh, Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, AMC in Lake Placid and
AMC-Uihlein nursing home in Lake Placid due to a projected loss of heat and hot
water for at least two days.
AMC Communications Manager Joe Riccio
said about half of those transfers had occurred by about 4:30 p.m. and all were
expected to be completed Sunday evening.
One patient who is on a
respirator required transport by an Advanced Life Support ambulance and crew,
including hospital staff.
AMC staff will be sent to the area
medical facilities if needed to help care for patients.
the blast happened at about 10 a.m., but there was no subsequent fire. No one
was in that area of the building at the time.
The explosion, she
said, "shook the building."
A supervisor on duty quickly decided to
start the transfer operations when it was determined the boiler could no longer
be used, she said.
Ralph said the hospital is working with the New
York State Department of Health on alternatives such as portable
Ambulances from many area hospitals and fire departments
were at the Medical Center Sunday, with five lined up out front at 3 p.m. and
others waiting in a queue out back.
Saranac Lake Fire Department
Second Assistant Chief Chuck Dobson said ambulances and crews from the Malone,
Moira, St. Regis Falls, Chateaugay, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid fire departments
and from EMT of CVPH in Plattsburgh, Northern Ambulance of Malone, Seaway Valley
Ambulance Service of Massena, Varins Ambulance Service of Plattsburgh and
Lamoille Ambulance Service based in Ticonderoga were involved in the patient
Saranac Lake Fire Department firefighters are helping
hospital staff to determine the explosion's cause, which remained under
investigation Sunday evening.
First Assistant Chief Dave Bickford
said a 3-foot by 3-foot section of the chimney, 8 feet to 10 feet in height,
either exploded or collapsed.
He said debris from the 40-foot
chimney did fly around the boiler room, damaging some equipment, but it appears
the two boilers are operational. They can't be used, however, until the chimney
is taken down, Bickford said.
AMC Chief Financial Officer Patrick
Facteau said the bottom of the chimney in and atop the boiler room was nearly
disintegrated. He said engineers were on the way to the hospital to help assess
The lack of structural integrity of the chimney makes
it a potential risk to other parts of the facility. The area around it has been
cordoned off to traffic and pedestrians.
The hospital has 97
certified beds. Ralph said it was fortunate more beds weren't full Sunday
The AMC Saranac Lake Emergency Department will remain open
to evaluate and treat patients. Those who need admission will be transferred to
The hospital's medical offices and out-patient
non-surgical services — such as x-ray, laboratory and physical therapy — will
also remain open. The power did not go out due to the blast, Ralph
"I have more than 30 years in health
care. I have never heard of this happening. We will get to the bottom of it, and
it will never happen again."
I woke this morning to an article in the local paper about an explosion in an area hospital: