Saint John’s Health Center and its parent company, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health Systems, have been working with the Mississippi Nursing Board and the Department of Health and Human Services to alleviate the need for nurses and other staff in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
An initial rapid response team of four nurses from Saint John’s went to Poplarville, Mississippi last week to fill in at Pearl River County Hospital, which was facing a dire shortage of nurses. The hospital is 40 miles from the Gulf Coast, and has taken many patients in from other hospitals in the region that were out of commission.
The team consisted of Fiorella Peterson, R.N., a Westchester resident, Paula McCloy, R.N., an El Segundo resident, and Ann Debello, R.N. and Margaret Ecker, both Los Angeles residents. Peterson works in the ambulatory medicine unit. McCloy is Saint John’s risk manager with significant experience working in clinical care and medical-surgical units Debello is a critical care nurse, and Ecker is the director of nursing education and a pediatric nurse.
The team spent one week in Mississippi and was to be replaced this week by a team from Saint Vincent Healthcare, another affiliate hospital based in Billings, Montana.
In conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, plans are being made to build several larger teams of approximately 25 people per team to answer longer-term needs. These teams would ideally volunteer for two-week assignments.
Saint John’s and its parent company are also collecting donations and matching employee contributions up to $100,000. Catholic Charities USA and the American Red Cross are the main recipients of donations and will direct all money collected to these organizations to be shared equally. Each affiliate foundation has established a Hurricane Katrina disaster relief fund to directly receive employee contributions to this fund.”While the initial need was for acute patient care and rescue efforts, the need now is for continued financial support and caregivers, to help those with chronic illnesses and to replace staff who need relief,” said Mary Ellen Blakley, Vice President of Patient Care Services, Saint John’s Health Center. “Hospitals and nursing homes have been destroyed, and outlying areas are overwhelmed with evacuees. Therefore, it is anticipated that this will be a long-term effort for Saint John’s. Others who responded immediately will need relief and to be replaced by new caregivers. Because we have been thorough in our planning, we have a process in place to provide a sustained level of volunteers.”