It’s a Wrap – Blizzard 2020 makes History at Eastern Health

On January 17, 2020, the blizzard that’s been dubbed ‘Stormageddon’ blew through the Avalon Peninsula on gusts of up to 140 km per hour. The official recorded amount of snowfall at St. John’s International airport was just over 76 centimeters.

Nipping at the heels of the blinding snow and gale-force winds were heartwarming stories of heroics, small kindnesses and people pulling together. These stories flooded through social media, various news outlets and by word of mouth – stories that will no doubt be handed down to our children and grandchildren.

At Eastern Health, with its own community of about 13,000 employees, it was no different. Our primary goal has been and always is to keep patients, families and staff as safe and cared for as possible. So it wasn’t long before stories began circulating about staff arriving with bags packed in advance of the storm to be there to care for patients and residents and to relieve co-workers; stories of extraordinary measures taken to get to work; to transport patients; to feed and provide support services to the multitudes of staff and patients waiting out the storm at Eastern Health sites.

Facilities staff, food service workers, housekeeping staff, laundry workers, nurses, doctors – all manner of health-care providers and support staff – were there for the long haul.

Below is a collage of photos that capture the heart and spirit of those who went above and beyond during those long days, and prove that through adversity, we all have the opportunity to shine.

Blizzard 2020 in Pictures

An employee in Placentia prepares for the long haul before the storm hits.

The Paramedicine and Medical Transport team braved near-impassible roadways in order to transport and deliver care to patients in emergency situations. There were 13 ambulances on the ground, day and night, at the eye of the storm to ensure urgent patients were attended to.

Paramedic Greg Gillard and team provided ongoing urgent services.

Paramedics brave the storm:

Children and Women’s Health staff were extremely busy during the blizzard attending to the birth of 19 babies.

Logistics Centre employees came together across the organization to coordinate among other things, the transportation of staff and patients. The centre transported close to 900 people during the storm – about 500 staff and physicians, and 400 patients in urgent need of care.

Volunteer transport drivers Maureen Brennan and Leslie Brown wanted to lighten things up for exhausted workers and awarded them $500 Monopoly dollars for answering trivia questions, in the Stormageddon version of Cash Cab.

Facilities workers shoveled and cleared pathways and entrances during the height of the storm to ensure urgent patients had access to services, and then volunteered to shovel patients’ homes who were in urgent need of care, so our teams could get to them.

Facilities team at the Waterford Hospital helped dig out patients’ homes so they could be transported to hospital.

Waterford Hospital facilities staff stand in front of the tractor used to dig out dialysis patients’ homes, which they used to navigate snow-clogged streets.

Facilities worker clears entrance for urgent patients at St Clare’s Mercy Hospital.

All hands-on deck at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital to clear ways.

Central laundry workers kept linens and other essential items stacked and in working order with minimal staff.

Thanks to Food services staff and an army of volunteers, 15,613 meals were served in city sites including, the Health Sciences Centre, St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, Waterford Hospital, the Dr. L.A. Miller Centre, the Veteran’s Pavilion and Mount Pearl Square.

Food service workers at Carbonear General Hospital bunk down at the chapel. They made the best of their sleep over and even had a sing along.

These two food service workers “dressed up” and spread cheer and a few laughs at Carbonear General.

Human Resources Disability Management and Occupational Health staff pitching in and serving food at Health Sciences Centre.

Electricians serving food at Health Sciences Centre

Community health staff also went to great lengths to provide care in our communities. We heard numerous stories of social workers calling in to check on vulnerable patients and nurses who faced extraordinary challenges to get to the homes of patients who were in need.

Community health nurse Trudy Smith doing home visit with fellow nurse April Adams as chauffeur.

Our Community Supports Program, including public health nurses, connected with just impacted 2,000 clients.

Christine O’Reilly, community support program manager, delivered supplies to community members in need.

Booking clerks and other administrative staff provided crucial support, well over 8,000 appointments were cancelled and rescheduled.

Health Sciences Centre staff continue to provide emergent and urgent care during storm.

Project manager Christina Cole, who worked in the logistics centre, sums up the experience. “Everybody just stepped up to the plate. It was no holds barred. It didn’t matter what your normal job was – all that went away. We were all there to help our patients. It’s like we were one big family and I was so glad to be part of it.”

To see more photos, visit Eastern Health’s Blizzard 2020 Facebook album.

This story was written by Robyn Lush, a communications specialist with Eastern Health. 

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