With some extra cots, elbow grease and plenty of planning, the staff of Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital kept the doors open through the worst of the winter storm of 2015.
The conference center of the hospital was turned into a dormitory, and empty patient rooms became sleeping quarters for workers from 14 departments. Even the pre-operation and post-operation units had stretchers available, according to LCRH Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Segal. Up to 80 employees at a time could sleep between shifts.
All of this extra housing meant clinical, non-clinical, support staff and administration had a safe and warm place to rest without worrying about driving back and forth through rough weather.
Even Chief Executive Officer Timothy Bess stayed one night.
“The hospital is prepared because we train for these events,” Bess said. Still, he was impressed with the way everyone handled the unique circumstances. “I can't be more proud of the leadership team, the physicians and the staff that have taken care of these patients.”
When word spread Sunday that the storm was rolling in, the hospital team got together with Amy Tomlinson, Public Health Preparedness Manager for the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, to get 60 cots delivered.
Other staff sped to Wal-Mart to buy all of the air mattresses they could find.
“Managers were already in touch with staff due to work Monday,” said Sheryl Glasscock, Chief Nursing Officer. They were told to come in Sunday evening and they would have a place to bunk.
Glasscock said that stranded employees were kept well fed by provided meal tickets. Off-duty staff could relax by watching television in the recreational room or playing cards.
There are usually 400 staff members in the hospital on day shift and 150 at night, so the additional people turned their hospital into a miniature city, she said.
It was worth it to take away some of the stress. “I'm sure they could sleep better in their own beds, but the journey to get here is stressful,” Glasscock said.
Bess added that the storm wasn't just stressful for the workers. They had to be separated from their families still at home. “We want to thank the family members, too. It's hard for them to have family gone for so long.”
The staff of the hospital wouldn't have taken such extreme measures if they weren't absolutely committed to patient care, said Bess. “It's hard and stressful, but they feel the reward and the exhaustion. Not too many people can say they feel this level of reward and exhaustion.”
In addition to in-house beds, many team members opened their homes to other staff, said Glasscock. Even then, it was necessary to send hospital workers and members of the rescue squad out to pick up people. “Staff has gone more than 1,000 miles bringing people in,” she said.
Segal added that 97 people were picked up that couldn't get in Monday night.
Patients were able to get in and out as well, thanks to the efforts of the maintained crew, Segal said
John Roberson, LCRH Director of Engineering, said that although his crew wasn't as well rested as the clinical staff, the men were just as committed to keeping the doors open.
“We had four or five guys that would switch out shoveling snow. We came in about 4:30 a.m. Monday and worked straight through till 10 p.m. Tuesday.”
All of this meant that there was no interruption for inpatient care. Several patients scheduled for outpatient services had to cancel, but if they were able to get to the hospital, they received what they needed.
While some of the cots have been broken down, many staff are still using the temporary beds due to bad road conditions due to continuing winter weather.
“We're not going to forget this for a while. It's an unusual situation,” said Glasscock.