Salt Lake City — MountainStar Healthcare has deployed about 30 caregivers to Florida and Texas where they are contributing to hurricane relief efforts. Its parent company, HCA Healthcare, operates hospitals and outpatient facilities in areas that were hard-hit by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Two MountainStar staff members are supporting relief efforts in the Houston area. Fifteen MountainStar nurses are providing patient care at two hospitals in Florida.
As each day passes, additional healthcare providers from MountainStar hospitals are being deployed. At this point, more than 250 have volunteered to work at HCA hospitals as relief efforts continue in both states. As damage reports from Hurricane Harvey emerged and the danger posed by Hurricane Irma increased, the volunteer list grew and continues to do so.
Five nurses from Ogden Regional Medical Center are now working at four HCA hospitals in Florida. Registered nurse Shawna Crane is filling in at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. She reports that the demand for patient care is immense. That hospital’s nurses have been working four or five shifts in a row, often without showers. Many are opting to stay onsite and catch some sleep at the hospital, on blow-up air beds when they’re available.
“This is very tiring work; we are all exhausted but the nurses who work here are even more exhausted,” said Crane, registered nurse at Ogden Regional Medical Center. “I’m so impressed with how hard everyone is working to make sure our patients are getting the care they need. It’s been so nice to come here to help and to give the regular staff a break so they can go home and rest. The best part is that we have each other.”
“I am so proud of our caregivers and the outpouring of volunteers who are stepping up to help their colleagues in Texas and Florida,” said Jennifer Wagenaar, chief nursing executive at MountainStar Healthcare. “Their willingness to put their lives on hold in order to meet a critical need for medical care and support their HCA family is quite remarkable.” MountainStar volunteers represent various specialties and levels of the healthcare system. That includes nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists and technicians as well as behavioral health specialists, hospital administrators and others.
The emergency room director and five critical care nurses from Timpanogos Regional Hospital caught flights to Florida on Sept. 8. For two weeks, the team will provide emergency and critical care at several HCA hospitals in that state. They are taking care of patients who were evacuated or transferred from hospitals in high-risk areas prior to the Hurricane Irma making landfall. With support from the Timpanogos Regional team, patients will get the care they need at the Florida hospitals and the medical staff will better avoid fatigue.
"If Hurricane Irma causes a lot of damage in this area of Florida, the medical staff here could have a lot of personal issues demanding their attention," says Ally Okazaki, nurse at Timpanogos Regional Medical Center. "That’s why we’re here. We can just focus on taking great care of patients because our families are safe and sound in Utah."
Following the historic flooding wrought by both hurricanes, ten staff members from St. Mark’s Hospital were deployed to HCA hospitals in Florida and Texas. Nine nurses left on Sept. 12 to relieve exhausted colleagues in both states who have been on the front lines of caregiving for many days. St. Mark’s HR director is working with a team to assist employees at six HCA hospitals in the Houston area. They are helping hospital staff members who have lost cars, homes and everything in them to Hurricane Harvey.
“Many neighborhoods are a total loss,” reports Kelly Brimhall, assistant administrator and HR director at St. Mark’s Hospital. “It’s been humbling to assist employees who have lost everything, literally everything, and only have the clothes on their backs”
The remaining MountainStar healthcare providers who have been deployed are employed by Cache Valley Hospital, and Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful. They are now sharing their skills and time to help caregivers at HCA hospitals in Florida take care of patients.
Helping colleagues too
Hundreds of HCA staff members in both states have been displaced from their homes or sustained significant personal hardship. In response, MountainStar employees are donating to the HCA Hope Fund to help them. This 501(c)(3) charity provides financial aid and resources to employees after extended illness, injury, disaster or other special situations. MountainStar staff members are also donating their vacation time to colleagues who need some time off to start rebuilding their personal lives.
About HCA Recovery Efforts
The HCA Transfer Center team successfully evacuated patients from three HCA hospitals on the Gulf Coast and two in Florida before the hurricanes hit land. Its Emergency Operations Team continues to address the challenges inherent in storms of this magnitude by coordinating ongoing support provided by HCA hospitals across the country.
In addition to ensuring patient safety and providing relief staffing, HCA Healthcare is sending medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to its facilities in both states. The national healthcare system is also providing food, water, emergency generators and sump pumps as well as aircraft and ground transport.
Further, HCA announced a donation of $1 million to the American Red Cross on Aug. 30. To date, HCA Hope Fund has helped approximately 1,200 HCA employees, granting them more than $1.4 million in aid. HCA teams are on the ground in Florida and Texas, helping employees to apply for company benefits as well as assistance from American Red Cross, FEMA and local assistance agencies.