Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers’ basement departments may have been the only ones physically damaged by the April 18 flood, but it took the support of the entire hospital and community to get the hospital up and running again.
“May 1, 2013, will go down in the history books of Morris Hospital. It will be remembered as the day we returned to full operations following the April 18 flood that resulted in the evacuation of 47 in-patients and put a halt to most patient services,” said Mark Steadham, president and CEO of the hospital.
“Returning to full operations just 13 days later is an amazing accomplishment, perhaps an impossibility to some, but never for our determined, dedicated, outstanding team here at Morris Hospital,” he said.
The hospital held a welcome home and rededication ceremony Wednesday afternoon, where hospital staff, community officials and first responders gathered in front of the main entrance of the hospital. Steadham and other hospital and community officials spoke at the ceremony.
The basement of the hospital received three to four inches of water in a 75,000-square-foot area.
The lower level houses the pharmacy, laboratory, cafeteria, medical records and information technology. It flooded from water reaching the receiving dock area.
Hospital staff, emergency responders, and volunteers worked to fill and stack sandbags to stop the water that day, but water still reached the inside.
Because of this, 47 patients were transferred and the hospital was on bypass for ambulance traffic until Wednesday. The emergency room stayed open for walk-in patients, but could not admit any patients.
The hospital received about $2.5 million in damages, said Steadham, and it is still a work in progress, but it was able to begin admitting patients and accepting ambulance traffic again at 7 a.m. Wednesday. By 1 p.m., it had 10 patients admitted.
There is still work to be done in the lower level, but the laboratory and pharmacy are up and running.
“These are the critical patient care areas that needed to be operational,” said Steadham after the ceremony.
The kitchen is also open to prepare food for patients, but the cafeteria for the staff and public is not yet open. Steadham said he expected it to be 10 more days before it would be open again.
Most of the speakers Wednesday commented on the quick timeline in which the hospital was able to reopen.
Hospital Board of Directors Chairman Mike Rittof said the hospital received one contractor bid for the repair work that needed 30 days for the work, which was unacceptable for the board, but a second bid came in much more timelier.
“The contractors worked around the clock since the flood in getting our facility ready for occupancy,” he said.
Mayor Richard Kopczick called the reopening in 13 days amazing.
“You really don’t know what you have until you don’t have it,” he said.
During the ceremony, a moment of silence was held for thoughts and prayers for the others who were affected by the flood in their homes and property. Steadham recognized the students and teachers of Marseilles Elementary School, as well as homeowners in surrounding communities who have suffered losses, including a number of the hospital’s employees.
Steadham took time to recognize the many first responders, businesses, organizations, city workers, hospital staff, and volunteers who came to the hospital’s aid, such as “D” Construction, Narvick Brothers, Brandt Construction, That Perennial Place, the city of Morris Streets & Sanitation, and the Grundy County Highway Department.
“Our local emergency responders were here on the scene without even having to be called, and we are so grateful to all of them, including Chief Brent Dite and the city of Morris police force; Chief Tracey Steffes and the city of Morris Fire Department; and Jim Lutz, Bob Coleman and the Grundy County Emergency Management Agency,” he said.
“These agencies were all here by our side, helping secure our building, advising us during the peak of the crisis and working with us on the safe evacuation and transfer of our patients.”
He also gave special recognition to Boy Scout Troop 471 and Morris Community High School students who volunteered their time to help sandbag.
Along with thanking all of the responders, staff and volunteers, Steadham said he could not forget their patients. As hospital staff called patients to reschedule or transfer their procedures to other locations, many refused to go elsewhere.
“One of our schedulers said 100 percent of the patients she talked to said they were going to wait for us and wouldn’t even consider going somewhere else for services,” he said. “One of our physicians shared that she has a patient who needed to be admitted for follow up care. Although the physician tried to arrange for the patient to go to another hospital, the patient refused to go anywhere but here.”
To ensure the hospital’s staff, patients and visitors never forget all who helped Morris Hospital to recover from the flood, a plaque will be displayed in the lower level.
It will bear the Helen Keller quote, “Alone we can do so little; Together we can do so much.”