WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — The closure of a major bridge connecting Memphis with Crittenden County, Arkansas is causing a potential health emergency in Arkansas.
With the I-40 bridge closed, the I-55 bridge is the only way for drivers in the area to cross the river.
The bridge is so congested officials say it isn’t a viable option for Arkansas ambulances trying to reach Regional Medical Center or Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, which are the main trauma units in the region.
“The likelihood of that ambulance and that patient being stuck in the back in a critical condition, it could be more of a jeopardy than a service,” said DeWayne Rose, the West Memphis Emergency Management Director.
Rose says critical patients like shooting victims will now be taken to Baptist Crittenden, then flown across the river by helicopter. He says his team is even working with the Memphis Fire Department to transport patients by boat if heavy rains or other conditions mean an air ambulance can’t fly.
Rose also says non-critical patients in rural parts of Crittenden County are being diverted to hospitals in Forrest City, Osceola and Jonesboro.
“We want to try to do our due diligence with these hospitals and not bombard one single one of them,” he said.
West Memphis residents are being bombarded with 18-wheelers driving through town attempting to bypass some of the backup on I-55 and parts of I-40.
“(We’re) encouraging people to be patient. Plan your day a little better,” Rose said, “Where a normal trip might take you 30 minutes this one might take you an hour. Prioritize if you really need to make the trip or not.”
Rose says plans for other emergencies like car crashes or fires really haven’t changed. However, he admits, with all the congestion, it may take longer to get to some calls.