On Monday, many people across the U.S. will experience complete darkness during the solar eclipse, but Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital will have its lights on, working overtime.
Lincoln City, Ore., home of the 25-bed critical access hospital, sits along the Pacific coast and is one of, if not the first, areas in the U.S. within the eclipse’s “path of totality” (the area from Oregon to South Carolina where the moon will completely block the sun). As a result, the city is expected to welcome an additional 50,000 to more than 100,000 people, according to Lesley Ogden, M.D., CEO of Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital.
Samaritan North's emergency management staff has been meeting with regional peers for more than a year in preparation, but during the last six months, meetings have increased in frequency to weekly, says Ogden. Traffic accidents are expected to increase with the influx of people and strain on the city's infrastructure, but the largest operational concern is to protect its emergency department for true emergencies.
To do that, Samaritan has turned seven of its affiliated appointment-only clinics into nonemergency walk-in clinics, opened past normal hours. Staffing has been increased in the ED, with extra staff on alert at all times. The hospital will be on Code Triage Alert, with an activated Hospital Command Center, which means staff will be prepared to handle any hazard or event that could potentially have a significant impact on normal operations. Elective patient appointments, procedures and surgeries are being postponed, along with a number of other measures to ensure operations run smoothly.
Essentially, the hospital is treating this as a mass casualty training incident, says Ogden. But, since this is a rare time where an event is able to be predicted, preparation has been much easier. And the process has demonstrated to Ogden just what kind of community she's in.
“Not once did anyone say, I can’t be bothered,” Ogden says. “I think we’ve taxed our imaginations as well as resources … my takeaway is that we have so many resources [that] we don’t even think about.”
And although this is not a true mass casualty event, Ogden did share some advice for other hospital leaders on emergency preparedness.
That includes having good relationships with emergency preparedness individuals and agencies across the county and city. “We’re not always the islands we think we are. There’s a lot of support,” Ogden says.