Care Continues Despite Winter Weather

An epic snowstorm ravaged the Walla Walla Valley in December 2008, putting a crimp on most activities—but not patient care at Walla Walla General Hospital in Walla Walla, Wash.

With many people unable to leave home without a four-wheel drive and much plowing, a department based on transportation might seem doomed. But the Home Care Services team—dedicated to providing in-home care prevailed. With a coordinated effort between the department, patients and the community, all homebound patients received necessary care during the storm.

The key was planning. Bernie Hartnell, Home Care Services director, likes to quote Eisenhower who says, "Plans are nothing; planning is everything."

"We prioritized patients to determine if they needed immediate attention or if they could wait," says Hartnell, describing wound care and oxygen tank refilling as priority, while those like house cleaning or laundry could wait.

"Katrina was a wake-up call. We always had a disaster plan, but we did much fine-tuning after that," Hartnell states, describing his four-inch binder of disaster planning materials. Hartnell also gives kudos to Linda Givens, director of the ER and ICU, who championed the organization-wide disaster plan.

Monty Knittel, WWGH president and CEO, comments, "Bernie and his team have done a great job planning for various emergency situations that could impact their patients."

Citing Hartnell's work with county officials and community organizations, Knittel continues, "It's a good example of how the community works together."

"A lot of people worked really hard. People worked extra shifts when their co-workers couldn't make it in," says Knittel, who himself played chauffeur—picking up snow-stranded staffers from their homes. "In an emergency situation, people are willing to go beyond the scope of their normal duties. That's one of the reasons people go into health help people in need. These types of situations unite us as a family."

Also united during the storm was the Plant Services team. At the hospital by 4 a.m. to push snow, they worked late to keep the hospital warm and safe.

"It's every grown boy's dream to play in the snow for three weeks. It was a blast," says Bruce Price, Plant Services director, demurely mentioning the 300 hours of pushing snow his team completed—in addition to their normal duties. "It's just a normal day in Plant Services."

March 01, 2009 / Adventist Health