Texas health care workers find a way to show up for patients, coworkers amid historic winter storm

AUSTIN — Health care workers in Texas were not going to let a little snowpocalypse get between them and their patients.

With millions of residents languishing without heat amid record cold temperatures and treacherous road conditions making travel nearly impossible across much of the Lone Star State, several frontline health care workers beat the odds however they could to make their shifts, relieve their coworkers, tend to their patients and carry on.

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“I knew people were still going to come in, too, in labor and trying to have their babies,” labor-and-delivery nurse Brooke Wilson told KXAN. “I figured I wasn’t that far away, and so I could make it happen. So, I did.”

Wilson awoke Monday to an iced-over driveway covered in snow, meaning driving would not be an option, so she laced up her hiking boots and made the more than 30-minute trek on foot to St. David’s Women’s Center of Texas, the TV station reported.

And because she was scheduled to work both Tuesday and Wednesday as well, Wilson packed a bag, expecting numerous coworkers to remain homebound by the inclement weather.

“I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t want people to be spread thin. That’s not safe for patients. It’s not safe for us,” Wilson told KVUE on Tuesday, still working.

“My unit is just one of many where people are having to get here and do their job. Babies aren’t waiting for anybody, but … emergencies are happening all the time, so we have great people all over the hospital that are helping keep things going,” she added.

Likewise, oncology nurse manager Amy Belknap trekked the more than a mile on foot for here shifts at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin.

“I started a little bit before the sun rose, so there was nobody out. And it was actually the roads, like no one had driven on them yet. So, the snow is really pretty. It was really peaceful,” Belknap told KVUE, noting she was only one of countless employees making the same calculated decisions.

“Martin, who does our floors, he walked almost two hours to get to work,” Belknap said, noting another coworker who lives nearby opted to come in on her days off to help alleviate the strain.

“We’ve been rotating staff so that we can give everybody breaks and take turns. And I’m really proud of the team up here. We have just been looking out for each other and helping each other out throughout this very unusual time,” she said, adding, “Hospitals never shut down. They’re 24/7. So, even whenever you have crazy weather and unique situations, people still need your care. And so, I really felt like I needed to get in for them and needed to get in for the nurses that were on the floor and needing some breaks.”

Meanwhile, KVUE asked officials with both medical facilities what support is being provided to employees during the inclement weather to ensure optimum safety and performance.

St. David’s issued the following statement:

“All hospitals are providing sleeping arrangements, toiletries, meal vouchers and shower facilities for employees so that they do not have to travel to and from the hospital while the roadways are unsafe and can remain at the hospital to continue to care for patients. St. David’s HealthCare’s Disaster Pay Policy also allows staff to be paid their base rate the entire time they are in the hospital—even while sleeping. Employees are also given an hourly disaster stipend while working.”

Ascension Seton issued the following statement:

“The health and safety of patients and associates are always our top priorities. Ascension Seton hospitals, including Dell Children’s Medical Center, remain open and staffed as usual. All of our hospitals have an emergency response plan in place to provide uninterrupted patient care. We are prepared to be responsive to rapidly evolving weather conditions and have reserved nearby hotel rooms for associates who may be unable to travel following their hospital shifts. Ascension Medical Group Seton has transitioned most scheduled clinic visits to virtual visits. Individuals should not delay if they are experiencing emergency medical symptoms.”

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