MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – There is an increase in motorcycle-related injuries every May along the Grand Strand. Grand Strand Medical Center is preparing for that increase by coordinating with local agencies and hospital and increasing its staffing levels.
"Our facility and other partners that we do have collaboration with are ready to help you in any stressful situation to get you through it as easily and comfortably as possible. And get you back home," said Dr. Antonio Pepe, the trauma medical director at Grand Strand Medical Center.
Leaders with Grand Strand Medical Center have been meeting for nearly four months to plan with leaders of other area hospitals along with police, fire, and paramedic leaders from both the city of Myrtle Beach and Horry County. This will be Dr. Pepe's fifth Bikefest. He said collaboration and communication is key with this Bikefest, because they don't want any one group or facility to be overwhelmed.
"With a system that is not overwhelmed, you can provide the optimum care," said Dr. Pepe. "But also safety and security of the facility and staff members themselves is very important. So communication is key."
The hospital is ramping up staffing levels in the intensive care unit and the operating room, along with more nurses in general for the entire hospital.
Dr. Pepe says his staff sees more road rash, orthopedic injuries, and traumatic brain injuries during both bike weeks. Dr. Pepe believes a lot of the traumatic injuries they see during Bikefest are a result of people not wearing helmets and from people making the bad decision to drink alcohol and continue to ride.
In years past, medical staff said the location for accidents during Bikefest were more clumped together and closer to the ocean front. But last year as a whole, there were fewer accidents that the year before. And the locations were more spaced out in the county. According to hospital data, in 2014, there was a 32 percent increase in motorcycle-related injuries during both Bike Weeks. The next year and the first year the traffic loop was in place, there was an increase in 27 percent.
Table 1. May totals for All Bike week events (Harley Bike Week event days and Memorial Bike Weekend event days)
This table (Table 1.) shows an overall comparison of 2012-2015 (for ALL May Bike Event Days). MCC = Motorcycle
Leaders at Grand Strand Medical Center think the traffic loop could be making the difference and are interested in seeing how trends play out this year to see if that theory is true. Dr. Pepe said his staff hopes with the loop in place again this year that the accidents and trauma levels will continue to decrease.
But based on data for the first part of Harley Week, things could change. Through Wednesday the 18th, the number of motorcycle-related injuries were up by 26 percent over the year before. What's different about this year's increase is that the numbers were slowly going down since about 2012.
Table 2. May Harley week events through the first Wednesday of Harley Week
This table (Table 2.) shows snapshot comparison of 2012-2016 (for specific timeframe: through Wednesday of the first Harley week).
- So far in 2016, we have seen a 26.39% increase in all traumas during the first Harley week (up to Wednesday), compared to last year (2015).
- During the first Harley week of 2016 (through Wednesday), MCC-related traumas have made up 23.08% of all traumas seen during this timeframe.
Paramedics and hospital staff are ready for anything. But they are warning everyone, whether you're on a motorcycle or not, to be careful this week.
"Myrtle Beach is a fun place," said Dr. Pepe. "It's a very hot vacation spot for a lot of people. We see that every year. But we really want to emphasize that people come down here and have a good time, but to be very responsible and make good choices."
Through the summer months, Grand Strand Medical Center also focuses on injury prevention education programs as well.
"During the month of May in particular as we're emphasizing on motorcycle-related events, true we do have an increase in motorcycle related events during this time. But that number has actually been steady for the last three to four years. What we have seen an increase on are pedestrian injuries, increase in falls. And other potential injuries that can occur because we do have a lot of visitors that come down here that are not motorcyclists. And that's why we still want to emphasize the outreach, not just to the motorcycle enthusiasts," explained Dr. Pepe.