Emily Buckley, editor in chief

In the wake of natural disasters that have occurred across the country in the last month, MountainStar Healthcare has taken action and deployed about 30 caregivers to Florida and Texas where they are contributing to hurricane relief efforts. MountainStar’s parent company, HCA Healthcare, operates hospitals and outpatient facilities in areas that were hard-hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

As each day passes, additional healthcare providers from MountainStar hospitals are being deployed. More than 250 have volunteered to work at HCA hospitals as relief efforts continue in both states. When damage reports from Hurricane Harvey emerged and the danger posed by Hurricane Irma increased, the volunteer list grew and continues to do so.

“I am so proud of our caregivers and the outpouring of volunteers who are stepping up to help their colleagues in Texas and Florida,” said Jennifer Wagenaar, chief nursing executive at MountainStar Healthcare. “Their willingness to put their lives on hold in order to meet a critical need for medical care and support their HCA family is quite remarkable.”

Stacey Crandall, the emergency department nurse manager at Cache Valley Hospital, explained that the service and volunteerism is not limited to those who have been deployed. “Nurses who were not deployed have picked up extra shifts here for those who have gone to Florida,” Stacey said. “If it weren’t for their willingness to work extra shifts here, we would not have been able to send anyone. It is a group effort.”

MountainStar volunteers represent various specialties and levels of the healthcare system. This includes nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists and technicians as well as behavioral health specialists, hospital administrators and others.

Dina Mejia, Jolene Nelson, Randi Blau and Mari Yarger, operating room nurses at Cache Valley Hospital, have helped cover shifts locally to allow other nurses to be in Florida.

Collette Low, Amanda Niebergall, Chani McOnber and Chelsea Jepsen, all nurses from Cache Valley Hospital, went to Florida last week. They are working in the field for two weeks, providing critical care in emergency departments, ICUs and surgical services at HCA hospitals in Florida.  

“As a nurse, I’ve always had a desire to help those in distress,” Chelsea said. “With all the natural disasters happening recently, my thoughts have been with those affected. When our hospital announced a need for volunteers to help with disaster relief, there was no hesitation because I knew this was my chance to do whatever I could to help out! I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve.”

The volunteers are helping care for patients who were evacuated or transferred from hospitals in high-risk areas prior to the Hurricane Irma making landfall. This team is helping patients get the care they need and allowing the medical staff avoid fatigue.

“This is a not a glamorous trip,” Stacey said. “These nurses are working 12-14 hour shifts five days a week. They are being housed in or near the hospitals, and are only taking enough time away from working to ensure they are rested enough to provide adequate medical care.”

The nurses have reported that the hospitals are overfull, and there is an abundance of patients waiting to be treated. Patients are being triaged in make-shift commons areas and some are waiting in the halls until beds become available.

Dr. Crumm, Dave Pearson, Quentin Kimber, Stacey Crandall, Laura Daniels and Lindsey Jacobsen have covered shifts locally in the emergency department to allow nurses to be deployed. Nurses who stepped in, but are not pictured, are Jennifer Cullumber, Deena Van Tassell and Lindsey Bishop.

Helping Colleagues, Too

Hundreds of HCA staff members in both Texas and Florida have been displaced from their homes or sustained significant personal hardship. In response, MountainStar employees are donating to the HCA Hope Fund to help them. This 501(c)(3) charity provides financial aid and resources to employees after extended illness, injury, disaster or other special situations. MountainStar staff members are also donating their vacation time to colleagues who need time off to start rebuilding their personal lives.

About HCA Recovery Efforts

The HCA Transfer Center team successfully evacuated patients from five HCA before the hurricanes hit land. Its Emergency Operations Team continues to address the challenges inherent in storms of this magnitude by coordinating ongoing support provided by HCA hospitals across the country.

In addition to ensuring patient safety and providing relief staffing, HCA Healthcare is sending medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to its facilities in both states. The national healthcare system is also providing food, water, emergency generators and sump pumps as well as aircraft and ground transport.

Further, HCA announced a donation of $1 million to the American Red Cross on Aug. 30. To date, HCA Hope Fund has helped approximately 1,200 HCA employees, granting them more than $1.4 million in aid. HCA teams are on the ground in Florida and Texas, helping employees to apply for company benefits as well as assistance from American Red Cross, FEMA and local assistance agencies.