Via Christi Blizzard Response

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Long before the first flakes of this week's snow began to fall on Monday, plans were under way throughout Via Christi Health's Wichita operations to ensure the safety of patients, visitors and staff.

Via Christi activated its Disaster Response Command Center on Monday morning at the hospital on St. Francis in Wichita. But the health system’s leaders had worked throughout the weekend coordinating preparations for the second major snow storm to hit south-central Kansas in less than a week.

Nurses for Via Christi Home Health began their Monday visits to patients' homes on Sunday in order to keep ahead of the weather. At Via Christi’s Wichita hospitals, case management staff and physicians worked to get patients dismissed as quickly as possible also ahead of the impending storm.

Nursing leaders assessed staffing and anticipated bed needs for Monday and Tuesday. They said 37 staff members volunteered to sleep over at Via Christi’s hospitals on St. Francis and Harry on Sunday night so they could be there to help with patient care first thing Monday morning. 

"This is an example of what we mean when we ask our staff to ‘be the difference’ -- they are really stepping up, not in a way that’s expected, but in a way that comes from the heart,” said Linda Goodwin, Via Christi's chief nursing officer and incident commander during last week's storm and the one that hit Monday.

Nearly four dozen Via Christi leaders from throughout the Wichita area participated in an 11 a.m. Command Center briefing on Monday, each sharing what provisions had been made for patients, visitors and staff.

“Our number one objective is always the safety of our patients and staff and that is how we make our decisions in the Command Center – based on what is best for our patients and what is best for our staff,” said Carolyn Koehn, director of Safety, Environmental Services and Emergency Management.

At the hospitals, 45 rooms were allocated for staff wanting to stay overnight on Monday to ensure that they could be at work on Tuesday. Additionally, nearly a dozen leaders with four-wheel drive vehicles had volunteered to be on hand to pick up staff unable to get to work in the event of deep snow and unplowed streets. 

Via Christi Clinic elected to close its Wichita-area physician offices on Monday, while the family medicine residency, rehabilitation and occupational medicine clinics remained open but adjusted scheduling to get patients in and staff back home ahead of the storm.

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