Answer Man

You don’t need to be worried about a traffic jam when St. E’s starts its move

Q: I was wondering if St. Elizabeth Hospital could publish the route they will use to transfer its patients from Belleville to O’Fallon on Saturday so drivers could avoid the congestion.

C.B. of Smithton

A: Relax. Smack the snooze alarm a third time. Enjoy a hearty breakfast. Sip an extra cup of coffee as you peruse your BND. Then, hit whatever road you want, whenever you wish.

The hospital is betting that if you weren’t aware of this once-in-a-lifetime patient transfer beforehand, you would never know it was going on merely by driving Saturday — even in the targeted area. Simply put, there should be no congestion at any time. Here’s why:

You’re probably envisioning a funeral-like procession of ambulances hauling all of the approximately 80 patients from Belleville to O’Fallon at one time. That’s not at all how it’s going to work.

Instead, starting at 4 a.m., the 21 ambulances from various EMS agencies, will be taking off one by one from three “exit points” at the Belleville hospital. Two will use Green Mount Road while the other heads north on Illinois Street. (The route will depend on the condition of the patient.) Once they reach the new hospital, the crew will wait for the patient to be settled, sanitize the ambulance and return for the next patient. It should take until early afternoon.

So it will be sort of like a footrace with staggered starts for each runner. Since each of the approximately 80 patients has to be checked and loaded, there won’t be even a handful of ambulances leaving en masse. Moreover, unless there’s an emergency, there will be no lights, sirens or police escort, so it will be just any other day when you see a solitary ambulance on nonemergency patrol. With all the planning and mock runs the hospital has done, Kelly Barbeau expects the chances of “congestion” at somewhere between fat and none.

“You probably wouldn’t even know a move was going on,” said Barbeau, the hospital’s marketing and communications director. “And we’ll be making adjustments based on traffic flow. If the first three or four crews say, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of congestion here’ maybe we’d change routes. But we don’t expect any traffic jams or anything.”

Today’s trivia

Who is the only strictly American poet memorialized in the Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abby in London?

Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: In the latter half of the 19th century, the “lunatic fringe” had nothing to do with political fanaticism and everything to do with a hairdo that some people did not like. In July 1875, you would have found this critique in the Wheeling (W.Va.) Daily Register: “ ‘Lunatic fringe’ is the name given to the fashion of cropping the hair and letting the ends hang down over the forehead.” It wasn’t until 1913 when President Theodore Roosevelt gave it a whole new meaning when he wrote, “There is apt to be a lunatic fringe among the votaries of any forward movement.”

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

Related stories from Belleville News-Democrat