Columbus Regional Hospital Flood of 2008

“They’ve got a big clean up job to do.”
“Heavy rains, a flooded creek, and visions of patients left stranded during
Hurricane Katrina prompted the Hospital CEO to order an evacuation of every single patient Saturday night.”
Initially when I received the phone call that we had water coming in over the banks of the Haw Creek, the short time in which it took me to finish my
trip to the hospital, the water had actually started to encroach up into our
patient visitor parking lots. You know, we talk about disaster
planning a lot and it certainly is a priority, and this certainly brought it home
to us that evening of how important it really is. We had no idea the water was going to
continue to rise to the extent it did. Somebody ran out of the boardroom, had gone to the stairwell in our East Building and opened the door and the water was one step away from being onto the
ground level of the hospital. That’s when I knew we were in really
big trouble. When the loading dock doors failed, it was probably a wall of water
coming through the basement at that time and I think that would’ve been
devastating. When I arrived on site, there were school buses that were there, the ambulances had arrived; clearly we were in a full scale evacuation. The way you get any given
patient down, you needed four to six people to help carry the person and then at least a couple others with
flashlights to help with doors on the way down. They were just sort of carried down in that fashion. Once the patients were down and out of the building, there was a sidewalk there outside and the patients were just lined up there. Patients were sitting on stretchers or sitting in wheelchairs holding their charts. The ambulance would pull up through the water get to the sidewalk and then you would load the patients into the ambulance and then they would drive off As we convinced ourselves that the last patients were gone we realized that we quickly had to change our mind set from safely evacuating patients to securing the site. We went basically top to bottom, twice, just room to room and would mark rooms with an “X” on the door and could assure that there was no one there. I can remember just walking into
the building that night about three or four A.M. You would just kind of eerily hear a monitor beeping down a hallway and then you would hear another sort of beep you know, a lonesome sort of tone down another
hallway and I could remember thinking the batteries were probably running down and the monitoring equipment. It was the sound of a dying building. But I think it really hit us when we were able to get into the basement and that was about two days later
after we pumped all the water out of the basement and we were able to come downstairs for the first
time. That was the shocker. That’s where you walked downstairs, in some cases couldn’t get through the
doorways because so much furniture, equipment, and other things had been swept by the force of the water and were totally blocking different doorways so you couldn’t go through there. Then actually walking when you could get through some of the hallways there and just looking at the extent of the damage it was an “Oh my God”, we have a lot of work to do here. The imagery in the parking lot the first couple of months was really astounding.It was transformed to it looking like some kind of war zone where we had literally piles and piles of rubble that had been pulled from the building, piles of equipment that were twisted and muddy, cars that had been wrecked by the flood that hadn’t yet been towed out. You know, we were really concerned about our employees and also our physicians as well as our patients and community. So as we announced that we would be paying all of our employees salaries at least for the next three months, it was like a wave of relief. One of the unanticipated bonuses for the community in all of this was that we had to find meaningful work. We had some employees that could staff other hospitals where our physicians and patients were going. and we had some employees that did their regular work, we had some employees that helped with the cleanup and then we still kind of had some extra employees and we realized the community need at that point was great. All along, we had been most worried about not being able to provide emergency services to the community. So when Med 1 called us and told us they were on the road we were tracking their progress. We were thrilled to have them here. When Med 1 was leaving, we wanted to send them off with a great send off, and as they pulled across the bridge, both sides of the bridge were lined with employees just clapping and cheering. At one point, Tom Blackwell who is
the Medical Chief of the operation stopped the truck in the middle of the bridge, jumped out of the truck and ran up to give Jim a giant hug and then climbed into to the truck and pulled out.That was a wonderful moment for all of us. This whole
period has been about a lot highs and a lot of lows. “The flood-damaged Columbus Regional Hospital hopes to re-open by the end of October, but today officials announced
the hospital has leaped a major hurdle.” “Two months after a devastating flood, Columbus Regional Hospital’s Emergency
Room has re-opened in the main hospital building.” This is our triage area. We can triage two patients at one time. “Two million dollars were raised to reopen the E.R. Interim or not, Columbus Regional employees are glad to be back in the main hospital.” It’s fun, it’s nice, everyone’s glad to be back we’re glad that we can serve the public, and this hospital’s just been great to
everybody. “Columbus Regional Hospital was damaged to the tune of $180 million by the flood. Eighteen hundred employees were made a
promise. A promise that has been kept. I was off of work for a month because my house was flooded, and I got paid every week anyway. “The mobile E.R. from North Carolina pulled out of Columbus Regional this morning amid a standing ovation from the
hospital staff.” Med-1 and Columbus Regional Hospital had an immediate bond when they arrived on campus and to see them leave was sort of bittersweet in many ways because they felt like family and they brought such a needed service to the community. But it was at the same time great that we were back in the facility. It was the first step in getting the facility back up and running, a sense of normalcy if you will to providing patient care, and I don’t
think that we will get back to the way it was. I don’t
think there’s any way we can. This flood has had such an impact on everybody involved in this organization. I don’t think if there’s
any way it can’t have changed things going forward. We will
recover from this and we’re going to do it and set the bar
on how hospitals recover from such a disaster situation and we have. How proud I am of each and every one of our employees for sticking through this with us and together. The team work, the attitudes, and really it is a thank you, and just to let them know how proud I am of
this organization. We are Columbus Regional Hospital. It is the people within the facility that make Columbus Regional Hospital what it is, and what makes it such a great organization. Our employees have really just gone above and beyond to demonstrate that pride and that slogan: “We Are Columbus Regional Hospital”

8 thoughts on “Columbus Regional Hospital Flood of 2008

  1. Brought forth from the depths of adversity, Columbus Regional Hospital gives the best care in South-Central Indiana. Best of luck in the future, and congratulations on the recovery of your fine institution.

  2. We had all sorts of flooding over here in WI too that same month.  Really dangerous, though, for a flood of that magnitude to hit a hospital.  I hope your installations will do some good if that ever happens again.

  3. It's not too surprising that us in CRH EMS didn't get mentioned through all of this appreciation. We put in a lot of work during that time, a lot of hours away from home and our families, and we definitely deserved some recognition.

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