Hampton VA Medical Center
I CARE Values Shine Through During Storm
By Jennifer Zingalie
Wednesday, May 30, 2018On September 10, the National Hurricane Center classified Hurricane Florence as a Category 4 hurricane; North and South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland each declared a state of emergency.
A category 4 hurricane has winds of 130 to 156 mph on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of Hurricane Intensity. The most recent category 4 storm to hit the U.S., was Hurricane Maria, which plowed into eastern Puerto Rico with winds of 155 mph. The storm killed as many as 3,000 people and left the entire island without power for weeks and in some locations, months.
On September 11, the governor of Virginia ordered people in Zone A, low lying areas, to evacuate. Seated directly across from the Chesapeake Bay, within Zone A, VA leadership made the call to close the Hampton VA Medical Center.
In less than 24-hours Hampton staff transferred 201 patients to six facilities within the VA and community, accompanied by 113 staff who volunteered to leave their own home and families behind to ensure patients made it to safety. Those transferred were patients in the long-term care, spinal cord injury and Domiciliary units.
“During this storm our staff showed a ‘putting others before self’ attitude,” said Dr. Taquisa Simmons, Hampton’s Associate Director for Operations, and the incident commander during the storm.
An incident commander is the person responsible for all aspects of an emergency response; including quickly developing incident objectives, managing all incident operations, application of resources as well as responsibility for all persons involved.
“When tough decisions are made, it takes a team effort to execute those decisions and the Hampton team acted promptly and successfully,” said Simmons.
While clinical staff were preparing patients, Hampton support staff, such as Food Service, Environmental Management, Engineering, and Fiscal Service, to name a few, were also hard at work.
Unbeknownst to some, Hampton Food Service is the hub to the region’s food preparation and distribution which provides meals to seven VA facilities. In anticipation of possible impact, Hampton prepared more than 35,000 meals, enough to support each facility for up to seven days.
Environmental Management Service helped coordinate VA bus drivers and buses for patient transportation to the Richmond, Salem, Martinsburg, Salisbury and Durham VA Medical Centers and well as transportation to community centers. They also ensured everything was shut down and sanitized properly to prevent any sanitation or hygiene issues.
Engineering Service walked the grounds ensuring all facilities would be secure during the storm to include equipment that powers the facility. They also worked with contracting to ensure all current projects would be prepped and secured, there were 11 total.
Fiscal Services worked to ensure all staff would have the financials needed while on travel as well as secure hotel rooms for the various locations. It doesn’t end there. Hampton reached out to their home care patients and ensured they had support and oxygen supplies, while the Outreach team worked closely with state agencies to ensure homeless Veterans would have a place to shelter. Medical Service brought all dialysis patients in to ensure they were taken care of before the storm.
The region and national VA provided support in any way possible, to include the establishment of the emergency Heritage Health pharmacy resource, a 24-hour hotline for Veterans and staff and ongoing communication.
The stories are endless.
By September 14, Hurricane Florence had been downgraded to a category 1 and Virginia’s governor lifted the mandatory evacuation. By September 19, all Hampton patients and staff returned to the facility, safe and unharmed.
“During this time, our staff’s decision-making reflected our I CARE values,” said J. Ronald Johnson, Hampton Medical Center Director in a letter addressed to staff. VA values include: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.
“As I met with patients and family members [who were part of the evacuation], they could not have been more complimentary of Hampton’s caring efforts.”