St. Joseph's Hospital was restored to normal operations on Tuesday following a power outage that lasted nearly 48 hours and being in a Disaster Response mode for 87 hours.
The storm that moved through Upshur County on June 29 left the hospital operating on emergency generators beginning at approximately 8 p.m. At that time, the hospital was placed on "Yellow Diversion" notifying Upshur County EMS that the hospital's Emergency Room may at some point be unable to accept patients by ambulance. At 10:40 p.m., a Code Triage was called, activating the hospital's emergency response plan.
Administration and staff continually monitored the situation through the night to ensure the safety of patients and the facility.
By the morning of June 30, it was apparent that the oncoming heat of the day could become an issue. Staff met with every patient to offer them the potential of transferring because of the lack of air conditioning. All patient rooms were supplied with fans to assist in cooling. The heat also affected vital clinical areas of the hospital including the laboratory and operating rooms. At 7:20 p.m. June 30, the hospital was moved to "Black Diversion" status due to lack of vital supporting services as a result of extreme temperatures, meaning Med-Comm would direct ambulance services to divert to the nearest appropriate facility. However, the Emergency Department remained open throughout for the community and walk-in patients.
Hospital staff worked around-the-clock ensuring that existing patients were kept safe and assisting community members with oxygen and other needs. Power was restored in the evening on July 1. The hospital staff then underwent a comprehensive recovery process to ensure the operational integrity of all departments, their equipment and supplies. This enabled them to go off "Black Diversion" status at 7:20 a.m. Monday and accept emergency cases via ambulance.
At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, the "all clear" for the Code Triage was announced upon direction from the command center and Code Triage Team. Following a complete debriefing with the Code Triage Team, it was concluded that the incident was no longer posing a strain on any critical operational areas of the organization and that normal hospital operations could be resumed.
"In addition to the support and guidance provided by the Code Triage Team, we had a supporting cast from every department that was no less than heroic when facing stifling heat and dwindling resources, while having to leave their families at home or elsewhere to fend without family or spousal support," said Sue Johnson-Phillippe, president and CEO of St. Joseph's Hospital. "It was sustaining to all of us to experience the teamwork that we did. Many organizations strive for this level of teamwork both inter- and intra-departmentally, yet we witnessed and experienced it. It was a blessing for us all.