This Christmas snow storm of 2009 had me wondering about the snowed in hospital policy at my hospital. If you can't get to the hospital, you can't get there. It's as simple as that. While I had Christmas off, I was back at work for the expected post Christmas rush of patients who delayed evaluation until after the holiday.
I'm lucky. My street is on a city bus route which means I am one of the lucky few who will never be snowed in for more than a few hours. But what about all those folks who don't live on a bus route or on a major city arterial? What about the folks who live in the country? What about all those folks who have that old rear wheel drive Mustang or the Neon with a five inch clearance? What about all the hospital workers who can't get to the hospital because they can't get out of their driveway? What should they do about being snowed in?
A major snow storm would wreak havoc on the daily operations of a hospital. If the maintenance crew can't get there, they can't shovel the parking lot. If the janitor can't clean the room, new patients can't be admitted. If the nurses and doctors and respiratory therapists can't get to the hospital, then patients can't get admitted and the hospital must divert patients or face issues with emergency department throughput. In a world where hospital margins are tight, any loss of business from snowed in workers can mean a month of financial ruin for the hospital's bottom line.
With that in mind, I found myself wondering: What is the snowed in policy at my hospital? I made some phone calls and discovered we have an expanded network of crazy volunteers who thrive on the adrenalin rush of dangerous driving on icy and snow packed roads. They'll pick you up and take you home if your little 1994 Neon can't make it out of your driveway. Two of my partners got picked up. I learned that multiple nurses not only got picked up, but spent the night in the hospital due to impassable roads.
While we often think of a major snow storm as placing community bound people at risk for lack of access emergency services, many people forget about a blizzard's effect on hospital workers. While the rest of America eats turkey and ham on Christmas Day, hospital employees and doctors are braving the elements to care for patients in a business that never closes. Not having a snowed in hospital policy can mean the difference life and death for patients.
A major snow storm can rise to the level of importance as a mass casualty event. It's important to have snowed in policies in place to prevent hospital operations from shutting down and placing patients at risk for lack of services. The irony here is that small town hospitals that rely on my hospital for a higher level of care probably have fewer issues with employees being snowed in. If you live in the country, you have a truck. It's as simple as that. So, what's your snowed in hospital policy? This original Happy ecard eloquently explains most hospital snow day policies:
Big snow storm arrives today. I just saw on the news all the hospitals have declared a get your ass to work and don't even think about calling in sick day.