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Generators, water trucks, evacuations: Updates from Ochsner

Courtesy photo by Christine Rigamer of Hospital Medicine team at OMC-Jeff Hwy.
Posted at 11:19 AM, Aug 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 16:48:52-04

Ochsner Health officials provided an update this morning that included information about patient evacuations, staff support, water trucks, roofing contractors and generators.

The group has facilities across the state, especially in southeast Louisiana which was hardest hit by Hurricane Ida.

Warner Thomas, President and CEO of Ochsner Health, and Mike Hulefield Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Ochsner Health, spoke with reporters at length Monday morning to provide updates and answer questions.

"Hurricane Ida was a pretty rough ride yesterday," Thomas said. "The sustained winds lasted for a much longer period of time than folks anticipated."

There was damage to facilities across the system, including roof damage and water intrusion, he said. Roofing teams already are in place and more are on the way, he said. Back-up power was used pre-emptively yesterday, and those generators continue to power facilities today.

The Chabert Medical Center in Houma is being evacuated - although the emergency room will remain open and operational for people in the community. St. Ann's in Raceland is almost completely evacuated now, and St. Charles was evacuated yesterday, Thomas and Hulfield said. The ER will continue to operate at St. Ann's, and at the St. Charles Medical Center, in Luling, as well. Later today, patients in River Place Behavioral Health Hospital in Laplace will also be evacuated, they said.

And also today, Ochsner also will be helping to evacuate Terrebonne General, which is not an Ochsner facility but is a partner hospital, Thomas said. The main issues are with power and HVAC, he said.

"There are about 100 patients there," he said. "We're working with folks on the state level to evacuate them out; that will be part of our big work that we do today."

Evacuated patients are headed to facilities in Louisiana, including Lafayette, Lake Charles and Shreveport, Hulefield said.

Thomas estimated that probably every Ochsner facility in the New Orleans area had roof damage and/or water intrusion. Because the public water systems are down in Jefferson and Orleans parishes, Ochsner facilities are using the wells they have dug, he said. The back-up power systems have about 10 days of fuel onsite, but fuel trucks are on the way, he said.

Part of the planning Ochsner does for disasters like this is not just to weather the storm, but to continue patient care after the storm, Thomas explained. There are plans in place to support employees who have damage at their own homes, for housing and whatever support they need, he added.

It has been a rough couple of years for that staff, Thomas acknowledged.

"It's a challenging situation. Folks have been going through COVID for a year and a half, and the forth surge has been the most difficult one, and now we have a major hurricane that ends up being a little worse than we anticipated," Thomas said. "We know we're in for several days, maybe a couple weeks of this situation, but we have to go into it with the right mental attitude."

Thomas said transplants were done this weekend, and several surgeries were done yesterday. The staff was divided into two teams, with Team B resting and getting ready to take over for Team A, which served through the storm.

"This is what we do. We're here to take care of people and we'll just stay at it," Thomas said.

It's not easy, Hulefield acknowledged.

"They will get tired. But 100 percent of our staff showed up for Team A, and that speaks to the commitment our people have," he said.

The damage and staff assessments will continue throughout the day, and Thomas and Hulefield promised more updates to come.