Hospital a flurry of activity during snow storm
DEMOREST, Ga. -- Schools and many businesses were closed last week due to the snow, but for medical professionals charged with saving lives, staying home was not an option.  Twenty Habersham Medical Center employees spent the night at the medical center Tuesday night to be sure they were ready to work their shifts and handle urgent cases on Wednesday.

“We were able to maintain operations without any delays or disruptions,” said Janice McKenzie, chief clinical officer.  “We put our contingency plans into action and everything went well.    Most elective surgeries and procedures were postponed, and we never ran out or got low on supplies.  The main concern was ensuring key personnel or essential employees arrived to and from the medical center safely.    Those scheduled to work midweek came in early and were prepared to stay in-house for several days so services were not interrupted.  Even the operating room staff stayed on site, so they would be available for emergencies.  They arrived with a sense of ‘we are here and ready to serve’.”

The 24-private bed outpatient surgery center was converted into sleeping quarters for the employees. This meant more work for support departments including housekeeping, laundry and dietary.   “The housekeeping staff willingly cleaned the employee sleeping rooms and bathrooms and continued their regular workloads without complaint,” says McKenzie.  The dietary staff also worked extra hours to make sure hot meals were served to all patients, visitors, nursing home residents and employees. 

The engineering staff also worked tirelessly to clear steps and walkways and put salt and sand at all the exterior entrances.  They also traveled throughout the county to transport staff and physicians to and from the medical center.

“The Emergency Department took care of most of the patients in the region who had to be transported by ambulance transport, so the ambulances did not have to travel with patients farther than necessary on hazardous roads,” adds Lynn Echols, director of the emergency department. “We did have an increase in motor vehicle accidents and trauma due to falls and accidents.” 

For the Family Birth Center staff, it was a busy few days as well.  They delivered six babies during a 16-hour period from noon on Tuesday to 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday during the height of the snowfall.  “All the moms made it to the hospital safely and in plenty of time,” said McKenzie.

“I was in awe of how our medical team came together to continue providing excellent patient care,” adds Jerry Wise, president and CEO.  “They enacted the emergency disaster plan and kept working like nothing was going on outside.  They are to be commended for their heroic efforts, for putting their lives on hold and for being away from their own families, so they could serve others.”