By LISA EISENHAUER
Sept. 1, 2020
Updated Sept. 4, 2020
After Hurricane Laura smashed ashore on the western side of Louisiana's Gulf Coast last week, workers from Our Lady of Lourdes Women's and Children's Hospital in Lafayette came to the aid of some of the massive storm's tiniest victims.
A member of the transport team from Our Lady of Lourdes Women's and Children's Hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana, tends to one of the infants being transferred from the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.
The hospital welcomed 10 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, after the latter hospital took a direct hit from the hurricane. Lafayette is about 70 miles from Lake Charles and got only a glancing blow. Our Lady of Lourdes Women's and Children's Hospital is a specialty facility within the Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, which is part of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System.
A transport team from CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, Texas, brought four infants from the NICU at CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Hospital in Lake Charles to Beaumont. CHRISTUS Health also sent nurses and physicians to relieve their exhausted counterparts at CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles.
CHRISTUS Oschner Lake Area stayed open during the storm but, because of extensive roof and wind damage, it transferred its 24 patients afterward and closed for repairs. It planned to reopen some of its departments Sept. 4, starting with a blessing ceremony. CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick also had substantial wind damage but it remained open. CHRISTUS brought in additional generators, tanker trucks full or water and water processing equipment to keep that hospital running. The city's other main hospital, Lake Charles Memorial, has been closed except for its emergency department since after the storm hit Aug. 27.
"It was important to us that our ministry be there for our community and for our associates and so we stayed and kept St. Patrick's open," said Paul Generale, executive vice president and chief strategy and network officer for CHRISTUS Health. He oversaw the system's emergency preparations for the storm.
Generale said CHRISTUS Health was offering associates in Lake Charles who were affected by the storm assistance that included shelter, fuel, groceries and loans.
Hurricane Laura also caused some minor damage to CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana, and cut off its public water supply for two days but there were no reports of injuries to patients or staff.
The tiny patients brought by ambulances to Our Lady of Lourdes filled its NICU to the unit's 51-bed capacity. "We took as many as we could," said Carrie Templeton, the hospital's vice president for women's and children's services.
Debris left in the wake of Hurricane Laura surrounds a statue of Jesus at CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The hospital stayed open during the storm and in its aftermath.
The infants were among 23 patients who had been transferred to FMOL facilities by Aug. 28, the day after the storm made landfall at the Louisiana and Texas border. The patients came from hospitals outside the FMOL Health system whose operations had been interrupted by the storm.
Other than assisting other hospitals, FMOL facilities were mostly unaffected by the storm, said Templeton, who took on the duties of incident commander once an emergency was declared. One FMOL hospital, St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, Louisiana, was on generator power for a few hours after the storm passed. There were no reports of storm victims coming in for care at FMOL's emergency departments or clinics.
As a precaution before the storm hit, some of FMOL sites did cancel appointments for outpatient and elective services for a day and a half. The facilities planned to reschedule all of those appointments.
Templeton said it was unclear how long the infants and the other transferred patients might stay at Our Lady of Lourdes. "We're prepared to care for them for as long as they need it," she said.
In addition, she said leaders of the health system were reaching out to executives at other systems whose hospitals had been damaged by the hurricane to see what assistance was needed. Clinicians were putting together care baskets to send to their counterparts who had been displaced by the storm.
"This is just the beginning of the support and resources our ministry will offer as our Lake Charles neighbors in need recover from Hurricane Laura." Templeton said. "Whether weeks or months, we stand ready to serve."
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