The snowstorm that ripped through the Midwest last week created scheduling headaches for several hospitals in areas hit by the storm. But the implementation of disaster plans kept problems to a minimum, said hospital and health system officials.
Calm during the storm
Disaster plans keep Midwest hospitals running smoothly during blizzard
States such as Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin were particularly hard hit, resulting in a lot of overnight stays for employees and relatively quiet emergency room activity.
“We just opened hotel St. Mary's,” said Frank Byrne, president of 376-bed St. Mary's Hospital, Madison, Wis., part of SSM Healthcare,
St. Louis. “We had 129 employees spend the night the day before the blizzard,” Byrne said. Madison received a little less than 20 inches of snow, but higher totals were reported in the surrounding area.
For one St. Mary's employee, Kristin McManmon, a vice president of operations, the storm meant going on toilet-cleaning duty. McManmon, who has experience in healthcare environmental services, volunteered for the job when roughly two-thirds of that staff could not make it in to work because Madison's bus system was shut down, said spokesman Steve Van Dinter.
The parent to St. Mary's, 14-hospital SSM Healthcare, said it had staffers and physicians sleeping over in hospitals across four states, including more than 500 in St. Louis. Clinicians and other workers at SSM's 499-bed
St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City struggled to get to work in the storm, according to a statement from the system. St. Anthony security personnel and a nurse manager picked up staff for work. A physician was rescued from his car in a snow drift, while another abandoned his car in a drift to walk the remaining few blocks to work.
At Milwaukee's 486-bed Froedtert Hospital, part of Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin, many members of the night shift the evening of Feb. 1 stayed on to work the following day, said spokeswoman Kathy Sieja. Froedtert enacted its snow emergency plan. “It's a real credit to the staff in a situation like this how they'll step up and pull together,” Sieja said.
Hospitals in the Chicago area, which received about 20 inches of snow that in spots drifted into much deeper piles, enacted disaster plans and cut back on outpatient care.
At 658-bed Rush University Medical Center, almost all outpatient services were rescheduled and most clinics were closed, as part of an emergency management plan that went into effect Jan. 31, said spokeswoman Kim Waterman. Some surgeries did take place for patients already in the hospital, Waterman said. Several staff members slept on cots in a conference center on the night of Feb. 1 as the storm hit the area, and many were prepared to do so given they had advance notice the snow was coming, she said.
Many staffers at suburban 619-bed Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, Park Ridge, Ill., arrived at work Feb. 1 with overnight bags in case they need to spend the night, said Greg Alford, a spokesman for the hospital, which instituted its snowstorm emergency plan, called “code white.” Although Lutheran General's emergency room was fairly quiet because limited automobile traffic kept the number of accidents down, it did go into the storm with a relatively high census, Alford said. Nevertheless, “things seemed to run fairly smoothly,” he said.
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