Davis Health System went above and beyond its normal responsibilities to house, feed and provide care and medicine to community members and visitors stranded in the region after the severe June 29 storm.
Davis Memorial Hospital, on Reed Street and German Avenue in Elkins, was able to meet the community's needs by powering 70 percent of its facilities through the use of emergency power generators.
"We didn't know that storm was going to hit us like it did. It caught us off guard. No one knew the magnitude," said Steve Johnson, DHS director of support services.
Submitted photo by Davis Health System
During last weekend’s power outage, Davis Health System employees worked tirelessly night and day to care for patients, visitors and holiday travelers left stranded. With air conditioning and computer systems affected by the storm, the entire DHS team collaborated to adapt normal operations and meet the challenges of 2012’s most destructive weather event.
With most of the region left in the dark after the destructive storm, many people were without ways to get their necessary prescriptions, as well as food, oxygen and ice for keeping medications cool. Davis Memorial Hospital was one of the only facilities with power in the area for the first several hours after the storm.
Stranded visitors in the region experienced significant challenges to find any area restaurant open. DHS Director of Nutrition Judy Sisler opened the hospital's kitchen to visitors and residents unable to get hot meals.
"We ended up feeding hundreds of people for breakfast, lunch and for dinner on Saturday," said DHS CEO Mark Doak. "We had a lot of people in the community that had no power anywhere else and/or visitors in the community that had no place to go. We couldn't use a cash register, so we still fed everybody and we just asked for donations."
On a normal weekend, Sisler said the hospital's staff serves anywhere from 150 to 200 meals. However, the extended power outage increased the meals served to around 700. Many people also visited the hospital to pick up bottled water and ice to keep medications, such as insulin, cool.
To conserve energy, Davis Memorial Hospital's computer and air conditioning systems were shut down, but DHS staff ensured that the emergency room and operating rooms were fully functional with only life or limb surgeries allowed to occur.
Director of Marketing at DHS Tracy Fath said, "We weren't sure how long the power outage was going to be. We had to conserve our resources if it was going to be a long-term thing."
When the storm hit, the hospital was serving 58 patients. Its load increased to its 90-person capacity by Sunday.
"Because people had no power, we had people coming into the emergency room that had no place to go," Doak said. "We opened up day surgery and we housed those people here for Saturday and Sunday night."
Davis Health Memorial employees worked around the clock, some working 36 to 48 hours straight.
"People in the hospital just step up and they take care of those needs," Doak said. "A hospital is going to operate. What's impressive is we had our plans and we took care of our patients, but the community had needs and we still took care of their needs."
Since power was not restored to parts of the Elkins area until Sunday morning, many area residents were unable to get necessary prescriptions filled from local pharmacies. DHS opened its Health Center Pharmacy to provide emergency prescriptions to meet that need.
Many efforts were going on outside of the hospital's walls as well to provide services to Home Plus patients needing oxygen assistance. Special Projects Coordinator Dan Bucher said, "We have hundreds of oxygen patients, and so we knew early on that they were going to be needing refills in oxygen for their tanks. They can't use their oxygen concentrators without power.
"We stayed open Friday and Saturday night. Around the clock, we had the ability to fill tanks and deliver tanks. That took a lot of extra efforts on the side."
Because other oxygen providers in the county were not operating over the weekend, Bucher said, "We were able to really meet all the patients' needs, and we were able to also serve the needs of patients who weren't ours in the community."
DHS's high-risk patients were reached despite the challenge of landlines and some cellphones being out of service.
"We provided food to the community, opened up our pharmacy and got oxygen to patients in need. ... These people just came together and they did it. I'm very proud of everybody for what they did," Doak said.