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Superstorm Sandy: Hospitals, care providers well prepared

By Kim Walter

Valley Health facilities in Winchester as well as Shenandoah and Warren counties proved to be well prepared for yesterday's local impact from superstorm Sandy.

No hospitals lost power, and resulting repairs from flooding was minimal, according to Art Yow, Valley Health's director of safety and security.

"It really went very well," he said Tuesday afternoon.

Yow said certain locations, specifically the breezeway on the Winchester Medical Center campus, did see some water, but the cleaning process was already under way early Tuesday morning.

The hospital also made available provisions for staff members who had trouble returning home after work.

"We made sure we'd have places for them to sleep, and we even ordered extra food ahead of time, both for staff and patients," he added. Fuel tanks were topped off for all the facilities' generators, as they have to be ready to keep a hospital going for a week without any outside help.

"We are constantly doing emergency drills and communicating with other facilities in Virginia in case something bad did happen ... we do a lot of practice," Yow said.

Valley Health's home care operations seemed to go just as well.

Patty Klinefelter, Valley Health home health director, said the organization was "very proactive with discharge planning."

"We planned ahead, prioritized our patients, communicated to our staff way ahead of time ... they haven't missed a beat," she said Tuesday. "In fact, staff is out there right now making visits, and they haven't missed a single patient."

Certain "high risk" patients, such as those on IV therapy, were given a high priority, she said.

"There are patients who we definitely have to see every day, so we called them ahead of time to check on them, and communicated with them during the storm as well," Klinefelter said. Additionally, staff was made aware of certain patients who lived near low water bridges, especially in Warren County, and had a back-up plan in place with their families to make sure they had a nearby, safe place to stay.

"I know that some staff members have had to walk a bit to get to homes if their vehicles couldn't make it," she added. "Our staff is just responding really well. We were ready."

While the hospitals fared well the past two days, the American Red Cross is experiencing an impact from the storm - but not in the form of added injured patients from Sandy-related accidents.

The local chapter did open two shelters in the region, but only one in Woodstock was attended.

"There's just really a need for blood," said Chris Scott, executive director of the Top of Virginia chapter. "Regionally, about 300 blood drives have been canceled because of the weather impact, and that means a 9,000-unit shortfall of blood and platelets, and that number is rising."

The Red Cross had moved blood products to certain areas on the coast that were predicted to receive a large impact, but Scott said "all areas need [blood products] now."

"Every day, people are needing blood who aren't connected to any major, natural disaster-related event. The hospitals are still doing surgeries, and accidents will happen on dry roads," he said.

Monetary donations also are in demand for disaster responses like shelter and food.

"Any disaster response is an expensive endeavor. We often provide relief and then have to figure out how to pay for it," Scott said.

Locally, Scott says folks have already been calling to find out when and where they can donate blood. Drives are still scheduled in Winchester, as well as the surrounding counties.

To find a blood drive or schedule an appointment, visit redcross.org.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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