I am sure that many of us were faced with weather challenges recently.  Here in the south, we hear the words ice and snow…

 bread and milk get purchased, gas tanks are filled, woodpiles are checked,and everyone rushes to get home.

Similar events occur with other weather related challenges.  When I lived in Florida, the words “hurricane watch” changed everyone’s focus.

Our patients have been planning their surgery for weeks or even months, and will take on the postman’s qualities to trek out the the center.  Meanwhile, if the issue is ice, most of the staff can’t get out of their driveways.  I remember more than one morning here in Atlanta where I literally had two phones going at 5:00 am trying to make strategic decisions with little information, lots of opinions, and very different perceptions on how we should handle the day.

As we approach what (hopefully) is the end of this crazy winter and weather (or any other unforeseen circumstance) closures are only a minimal possibility, as well as hold optimism for a slow hurricane season, now may be a good time to plan for that next weather event.

The best plan is to have an agreed upon plan that everyone follows.

Create a blueprint and stick to it.  If the plan is constructed prior to any weather event, it provides a clear, strategic blueprint to respond.  Once complete, everyone gets trained, gets a copy, and knows what to do and expect. The plan should include response to a threat, a closure plan, a delay plan, and a re-schedule plan.

Define criteria.  Define what  you will use to delay or close the center.  You may consider school closings, National Weather Service warnings, and States of Emergency as your guide.  In some instances, weather improves, allowing for a delayed start, but child care and school remains closed which means staff may not be available despite weather.  The best defined plan may be to provide some care and re-schedule some.

As an example, if the delayed plan means you provide care in one room only and staff for it, the physicians may choose to re-schedule all cases, or be given a delay block in which they can proceed with only cases that fit into that time frame.  I remember having a delayed start once, and we started running late into the afternoon, the temperature outside was dropping, and we wanted to get everyone home before roads potentially re-freezing, so had to move patients again.

Have a communication plan. Have a communication plan that is not just you, and make sure you have the best most recent telephone number for everyone.  Have updates communicated at staff and governing board meetings.

Patients.  If the surgical schedule can be accessed remotely, life is good.  If it can’t, print it.  Make sure you have contact information.  Notify the  patients of your plan by e  mail when appropriate, and include a receipt requirement, as well as a facility contact with questions.  If patients need to be called, use the same information in the e mail as your call script and assign staff member(s) to complete the calls.  Provide updated information as it occurs.

Drill the plan and evaluate the response.   Make changes, update, and use it the next time Mother Nature decides to help with your schedule.



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