Our Employees Answer the CallOct 17, 2017
At Emanuel Medical Center, our employees don’t just help patients who come to our hospital in Turlock. When the need arises, our people travel to wherever they can be of the most help.
That happened too often last year, when flooding, hurricanes and fires threatened and displaced people from Oroville, California to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and from Houston, Texas to Napa County.
Jana Mitchell, the emergency preparedness manager at Emanuel and part of the Stanislaus County Medical Reserve Corps, responded to two disasters last year, the first when the water was released from the Don Pedro Dam in January 2017 and more recently when wildfire swept through the Napa Valley in October 2017.
“Colleagues from other Tenet facilities responded to Puerto Rico as well,” she said. “The Medical Reserve Corps also activated local vaccination clinics.”
The Medical Reserve Corps was created after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. in 2001, to get trained medical personnel to disaster scenes. Mitchell’s emergency deployment to the shelter at the Napa Valley Community College happened during the height of the wildfires that killed 42 people and burned more than 8,400 homes, businesses and buildings.
“There were so many needs,” she said. “People left their homes with nothing but what was on their backs, and there were a lot of people there with dementia, or in wheelchairs. There were diabetics who didn’t have their medication, and no one knew if their homes were going to be there when they returned.”
Mitchell and other nurses from the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento and the Bay Area did as much psychological healing as physical.
“It’s was very stressful for the evacuees,” she said. “There were so many people who got out with nothing and didn’t know what to expect when they got home. Some were confused, and we also had a lot of children in the shelter.”
Caring for that sudden community in the shelter took a toll on volunteers, too.
“Psychological first aid must be provided to the evacuees, volunteers and first responders during a disaster. My first client there was a Red Cross worker whose heart was aching,” Mitchell said. “There were a lot of people there working tremendous hours. One lesson Mitchell knows well – and rediscovered the importance of – is being prepared for an emergency or natural disaster.
Fortunately, there are good resources online to help anyone prepare for an emergency. One good place to start is at ready.gov/make-a-plan, a Department of Homeland Security website with a lot of preparedness information.
“We all need to be prepared at home,” she said. “Even with simple things like medication lists.”