To many, Hurricane Harvey will be the most destructive hurricane they have endured, to others it is one in a long line of climatic weather situations that you face when you live in the Gulf Coast region. For Houston Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, Hurricane Harvey meant that a team of over 30 people would have to leave their families and make the hospital their new home. No one is truly ready to take on a category 5 hurricane, but with the right preparation and people you can guarantee a more successful outcome.
“When you are in a leadership position you have to count on the tremendous dedication of your team in order to survive situations like a hurricane,” Said Houston Behavioral CEO Roy Hollis. “After days of preparation and careful planning, we were as ready as you could get.”
But the fact that a category 5 hurricane was on the way made this preparation more significant and tested every fabric of the team’s dedication and commitment to their patients’ care and safety. On the day the hurricane made landfall n Houston, the hospital housed over 50 patients ranging from the ages of 14-60 all with different needs and care. Special care had been taken to provide continual communication throughout the day and nights to come. Employees and staff made their offices into makeshift bedrooms with mattresses on the floor and blankets for their cover. Front desk personnel turned into maintenance teams, the CEO and CNO became chefs and cooks. People did whatever was necessary to protect and provide high-level care to their inpatient population. Even with a great team and a high level of preparation, a storm like Harvey made it almost impossible to be fully prepared.
One of the most important and fundamental elements in patient care is having access to medications. The careful planning of the pharmacy department ensured that no patient was left without their prescribed medication. Knowing that discharges would be difficult during the first days after the storm, having the right amount of drugs readily available and determining future needs was crucial for the pharmacy department at Houston Behavioral Healthcare Hospital.
“Not one patient was left without their medication and the hospital did not receive one complaint in terms of missed meds.” Said *** Director of Pharmacy HBHH. This success included having injectable meds on hand as well.
In the morning hours after the storm made its historical landfall, the hospital was surrounded by 3-4 feet of water and in some neighboring areas in Houston, as much as 10 feet of water disconnected Houston Behavioral from the rest of the world. No one could come in and no one could get out. “Although our hospital did not lose power, and thankfully did not lose electricity, we did have to overcome some struggles to manage the 4 days of isolation,” said Roy Hollis, CEO. “Water is tricky in that it still tries to find its way into your home or hospital through ceiling tiles, vents, and other outside connecting structures.” Houston Behavioral did suffer from water leaks in various buildings and certain areas of the main entrance, but survived better than other hospitals in our area.
Food became an issue soon after the fact. Nothing and no one could make it through the city of Houston and its surrounding areas. We were prepared to handle dietary needs for 96 hours but this storm brought us to the limits of our storages. With the normal food truck delivery cancelled due to the storm, the hospital was on the brink of having a real issue. On day three, the hospital had to make every effort to find a solution to our dwindling food supplies. With the city of Houston at a standstill and 80% of grocery stores closed, HBHH had to become creative in how we were going to feed our 50+ in-house patients. Luckily for us, HEB Grocery opened their store and allowed their customers to shop for a few hours a day. It was walking distance from the hospital and a group of our staff, including our Intake Director and CNO, made the trek to purchase whatever they could get their hands on. Using their personal credit cards and cash, they were able to purchase food for the patients and staff for the remaining days before a contracted food delivery could make its way through to Houston to get to us.
On day 5, things started to return to some sense of normalcy, allowing for staff to return home and rest and begin the necessary process of recovery and repair.
At Houston Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, we prepared ourselves for the worst and found ourselves challenged on many fronts. Through advantageous preparation, true leadership, and extraordinary dedication, we not only survived the largest and strongest storm to hit our coast, but demonstrated that through true team effort, nothing is impossible.