Saint Joseph's staff shelter snowbound Atlantans

February 15, 2014

As a rare snowstorm shut down much of Atlanta late last month, at Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta, "everyone pitched in, and everyone pulled together," to ensure patients, staff and community members were safe, sheltered and well-fed, said
Sr. Rosemary Smith, SC, the hospital's chief mission officer.

Although less than three inches of snow fell Jan. 28, temperatures dropped and an epic traffic jam resulted when Atlanta workers hit the icy city streets and highways to head home to the suburbs. Atlanta side streets and the region's highways turned into gridlocked parking lots. Throughout the area, motorists sat in traffic — many of them for more than a dozen hours — and many people abandoned vehicles in traffic jams.

Saint Joseph's sheltered about 320 people during the storm and in the aftermath, not including inpatients. Staff slept at the hospital between shifts and stranded commuters flocked to the hospital after leaving their cars on a nearby highway.

As the storm hit, Saint Joseph's set up a severe weather command center in a board room. Command center personnel managed changing surgery schedules and assigned in-house staff where they were most needed since many workers were unable to reach the hospital.

Hospital staff provided cots or lounge chairs, linen sets and toiletries to staff and visitors — many people slept in hospital classrooms, some camped out in the lobby and other common areas. The hospital extended its cafeteria's hours to ensure everyone could eat. Staff made an unscheduled trip to Costco to replenish the food supply.

Hospital maintenance crews spread 4,000 pounds of ice melt and 1.2 tons of sand on the campus and helped people push their cars on icy streets. The crews also moved deserted cars off slick, hilly streets on campus.

More than 600 employees were impacted in some way by the snowstorm. Dozens of staff members worked multiple shifts to ensure coverage for colleagues stuck on the roads or at home. A Saint Joseph's courier walked 4 miles from his gridlocked car to the hospital to deliver lab specimens to the surgery center as quickly as possible.

Staff were "going above and beyond" throughout the weather emergency, said Sr. Smith.


Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.