While DHHS administrative employees may have exercised an option to work from home on Jan. 28 and 29, employees in the department’s 14 state-run facilities were keeping roads and sidewalks cleared and parking lots open and safe for caregiving staff and their 3,000 patients and residents from Morganton and Black Mountain to Kinston, Greenville and Goldsboro.
The winter weather that blanketed North Carolina put crews with sand and salt spreaders in motion on Tuesday, Jan. 27. Maintenance workers were double checking generators in case they were needed. Crews operated plow blades and snow shovels on Jan. 28 and 29, and all care-giving, maintenance and housekeeping staff at the facilities followed adverse weather policies to assure shift coverage for patient care and nutrition services.
Across all DHHS facilities, time at home was put on the back burner. Some staff volunteered to spend the night before the weather hit and dozens more worked additional shifts to ensure staffing was adequate to meet the acute needs of the people we serve.
“I continue to be impressed by my fellow state employees in our state operated healthcare facilities,” said Interim Division Director Luckey Welsh. “Time and again they respond to emergency events with dedication and commitment to serve the most vulnerable citizens in our state.”
In some facilities, mattresses lined floors of available rooms where staff took turns resting, all the while ensuring the patients and residents received the services they need. Some staff at Walter B. Jones Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center in Greenville stayed in nearby hotel rooms at their own expense to ensure they were close enough to be able to meet staffing needs.
Staff responses included designated drivers of all-wheel drive vehicles to provide transportation where needed.
Pam Kuhno, director at the Murdoch Developmental Center, summed up the response from staff at the Butner facility that seems to apply across the department’s care-giving facilities. “Staff (at Murdoch Developmental Center) have close, family-like relationships with the people who live here and feel a strong sense of responsibility for ensuring that they are cared for in situations such as this,” she said. “This is the core value of the staff who work here, and I have seen it demonstrated time and time again. I’m very proud of the response of our staff in this weather emergency.