Emergency plan put into high gear at St.Elizabeth Hospital

“The last 24 hours have been intense,” said Shelly Pricco, St. Elizabeth Hospital director of patient care services Friday afternoon.

The winter storm that passed across the Plateau pushed the hospital staff into high gear. Thursday morning’s power outage forced St. Elizabeth to pull its emergency generator into service.

The power outage meant a number of area residents who rely on oxygen or chronically ill support services in their homes would come through the hospital’s doors seeking assistance. Hospital staff also stabilized three people who were brought in with carbon monoxide poisoning and saw a number of patients for falls.

St. Elizabeth’s Cornerstone Café was also a hopping place.

Pricco said when Mayor Liz Reynolds declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon it widened the hospital’s options for staffing. Pricco said about a dozen employees stayed over to cover shifts for those who could not make it. Staff also pitched in at the Cornerstone Café, which saw an influx of visitors as people sought food and shelter.

“That’s one of the things I love about this community,” Pricco said. “Everyone pitches in.”

With the majority of the community without power, unable to transport and unable to communicate, Pricco said, it met the definition of a disaster.

Pricco, who is part of the city’s disaster planning committee, said the event was a test and the city passed.

“When we started planning we thought what is the most common experience here we could prepare for, a weather-related power outage, and low and behold,” she said.

“The communication has been fabulous,” she said. “It’s been the most coordinated event we’ve ever had.”

Pricco said the hospital, fire, police, assisted living facilities, schools, city and Mutual of Enumclaw, which served as a warming station, were in constant communication through the storm.

The event also served as a reminder to the importance of having a local hospital.

“The last 24 to 36 hours emphasized it for me,” Pricco said. She said with many of the roads covered in ice or criss-crossed with down trees, many of the patients who came through St. Elizabeth’s doors would have had to make a longer, tougher trip to Auburn or Puyallup.

“The storm has underscored its importance to the community,” said Franciscan Health System public relations representative Gale Robinette, who is working with Legislators to nix a bill that would cut funding to small, rural hospitals like St. Elizabeth.

He said the funding, which is connected to state and federal money, would mean a loss of about $2 million to St. Elizabeth, a critical access hospital. He said that’s funding that allows communities like Enumclaw, which would otherwise not have a hospital, to keep them.

“St. Elizabeth provided seamless, uninterrupted care and collaborated with the community,” Robinette said. “Funding must be maintained. St. Elizabeth’s provides a continuous range of services, and it did.


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