As Beaufort County residents return home and begin cleaning up their properties, representatives from emergency services and the local medical community expect reports of injuries to rise.
“Right now, we’ve seen a handful only because ... we’re just in the beginning stages of the cleanup,” said Lydia Hill, a marketing and public relations representative for Hilton Head Hospital. “So I’m sure we’ll be seeing more as we go.”
Since opening Monday, the hospital’s emergency room has seen 81 patients, but Hill said she could not identify how many people came in with post-hurricane cleanup-related injuries. She said Coastal Carolina Hospital had seen 184 patients since its ER opened Sunday.
“Because the population isn’t back to what we’re going to see, we’re anticipating a lot more in the way of injuries moving forward,” said Dr. Rob Clodfelter, medical director of Hilton Head Hospital.
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Howell Youmans, deputy director of Beaufort County Emergency Management, said his group had handled two injuries related to storm cleanup as of 9 a.m. Thursday.
“They were not life-threatening that we know of,” he said.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital spokesperson Courtney McDermott said that hospital hadn’t yet seen injuries related to cleanup efforts.
Dr. Jane Kokinakis, an ophthalmologist with Beaufort Eye Center, said she is concerned about people getting hurt while operating tools such as chainsaws and hammers.
“One of the biggest issues that you can imagine is trauma where they can cut the eye open,” she said.
As of Tuesday, she’d seen two patients with eye injuries sustained while cleaning up after the storm. She expects to see more this weekend and next week.
“When people get tired … that’s when these things happen,” she said. “(My patients) were tired. They took off their glasses, and they got hit.”
She urged the use of safety glasses that meet the American National Standards Institute Z97.1 standard.
“People who aren’t familiar with these items (such as chainsaws) are at tremendous risk,” she said.