Health System Addresses Health-Related Concerns Due to Smoke

BRUNSWICK, Georgia: June 22, 2011– With smoke from the on-going wildfires in southeast Georgia covering the area, health care providers with Southeast Georgia Health System want to reassure the general public that no health advisory has been issued and there is no reason to be alarmed by current conditions. However, if you are someone with existing breathing problems, you will need to stay indoors as much as possible until the smoke clears, says Stephen Chitty, M.D., a board-certified pulmonologist with Southeast Georgia Physician Associates (SGPA)-Pulmonary Medicine, a strategic affiliate of the Health System.

“Although people with normal respiratory systems might notice some irritation, they won’t experience any major problems,” Chitty says. “However, about 75 to 80 percent of our patients who we are seeing now in the office and have chronic lung diseases, such as asthma, emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis, are having major issues right now. In the four-and-a-half years I’ve been here, the last three days have been the busiest in our office. Many of these patients have to use their rescue breathing medications and we’ve also had to prescribe additional medications to some of our patients. Other than staying indoors as much as possible, there isn’t a lot you can do about it. While particulate masks might help filter out soot or ashes, they won’t help with the smoke.”

While the physicians at SGPA- Pulmonary Medicine have seen an increase in patients suffering from the smoky conditions, the same can’t be said for the Health System’s Emergency Care Centers. “Surprisingly we are still not seeing an increase in patients coming in with smoke-related issues,” says Laura Grantham, RN, MSN, APRN, director, patient care services. “Most patients we are seeing tend to have more issues with the heat and they are persons with chronic conditions.”

For patients, visitors and team members at the Health System, the Facilities Department is stepping up efforts to keep the air inside as smoke free as possible, says Marjorie A. Mathieu, R.Ph., MBA, FACHE, vice president. “We have decreased our outside air intake as much as possible,” Mathieu says. “We’ve also added additional air scrubbers to our Outpatient Care Center operating rooms and at our Infusion Center within our Cancer Care Center to keep everyone as comfortable as possible, especially those with breathing problems and compromised immune systems.”