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A shift on labor and delivery units for Ob Hospitalist Group clinicians can be punctuated by quiet moments—and then sometimes there’s a hurricane.
The entire country watched as Hurricane Harvey barreled toward the Texas coast, bringing with it high winds of 130 miles an hour and horrendous flooding. On Aug. 25, the Category 4 hurricane crashed into the coast just northeast of Corpus Christi and dumped an estimated more than 50 inches of rain in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. "This is a landmark event for Texas," Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said. "Texas has never seen an event like this."
Teams at the ready
In preparation, our OBHG programs in Texas activated their emergency plans, which ask two physicians to volunteer to staff each program. This plan ensures that one physician is not stranded at the hospital providing coverage during an emergency. Contingency plans were in place for hospitalist coverage over the coming days, said Senior Medical Director of Operations Dr. Charlie Jaynes.
Several days after Harvey’s landfall, Jaynes reported that all Houston-area programs were functioning with emergency coverage. In addition, programs in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Austin were all functioning normally, said Jaynes, who is based near Austin.
Five hospitals with OBHG programs in Houston were affected by staffing challenges caused by the storm and flooding: Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi – South, Cypress Fairbanks Hospital, Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, Kingwood Medical Center, Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital, and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital.
Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Louisiana, North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, and Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson all had plans in place and readied themselves to face flooding as the then-tropical storm moved east.
Collaboration under duress
All programs in Hurricane Harvey’s path were staffed 24/7 by OB hospitalists providing coverage for labor and delivery. Jaynes praised each team’s collaboration with hospital staff and community physicians. Each hospital team worked together—from cleaning teams to nurses—and put themselves in harm’s way, away from otheir families, to do whatever it took to care for their patients, said Jaynes.
"I had doctors who were in the hospital for six days straight, and their families were at home without them," he said.
Twins were born at Christus Spohn Hospital South in Corpus Christi just as Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25. A third baby was born at home with emergency personnel assisting, and the mother and baby were later transported to Christus Spohn Hospital South.
At Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital in northern Houston, two OBHG hospitalists took turns seeing patients during a very busy few days and said they received much help from community physicians. The hospital also accepted multiple patient transfers from other facilities in flooded areas. News outlets reported that Houston-area Ben Taub General Hospital and Bayshore Medical Center were moving patients and Bayshore had suspended all services.
Memorial Hermann The Woodlands’ team north of Houston was operating with two hospitalists, one of whom could not return home due to flood waters. Local physicians were also helping this team on a busy Labor and Delivery unit. Two of The Woodlands team members rotated shifts for 4 days because roads were impassable due to flooding.
At Memorial Hermann Katy, one hospitalist team member had been working a bustling 24 hour shift with little sleep, however, also had assistance of community physicians. Memorial Hermann Katy, west of Houston, received transfers from nearby hospitals that evacuated patients. Meanwhile, northwest of Houston at Cypress Fairbanks Hospital, two hospitalists rotated shifts for 4 days and experienced a heavy patient volume.
Despite separation from their families and lack of creature comforts like clean clothes and hot showers, all of our OBHG hospitalists worked with community providers to persevere and care for their patients. OBHG extends its heartfelt thanks to those teams that provided genuine service to patients and their babies through this trying and unpredictable situation.
This blog provides general information and discussion about healthcare-related subjects. The content and linked materials provided are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader is an expectant mother with a medical concern, she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or healthcare provider.
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