Novant Health Brunswick Medical Personnel Endure & Serve Through Hurricane Florence
Imagine camping out for a week or more on a cot or blow-up bed, living out of a suitcase in a hospital while a storm rages on outside. One hundred and eighty-seven Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center team members did just that, and kept the hospital’s doors open for the duration of Hurricane Florence.
Starting two days before the storm hit locally, on September 12, staff remained in the building, and rarely left to catch a breath of fresh air, due to the intense rainfall and flooding. Team members stayed on site anywhere from four to eight days in order to continue caring for patients.
“The structure itself can withstand a Category 5 hurricane, ensuring our patients are safe and free from harm when they are in our care,” said Shelbourn Stevens, president of Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center.
While the storm raged outside, team members served their shifts and certainly suffered the cabin fever such an event is bound to create. They could only imagine what was happening to their homes, and it was only after the mandatory evacuations had been lifted that dozens of them learned they had sustained property damage of their own.
With a commitment to serving the health needs of patients one person at a time, however, remarkable things happened inside the building, including at least three babies born, and a couple announcing their engagement to be married.
Nothing stops a hurricane or the arrival of a new baby. With pounding rain and surging winds as the backdrop, Amber Simmons and Conner Faulk welcomed their first child on September 13, a baby boy they named Carson. “We were pretty nervous,” said Faulk, who lives in Supply. “Everybody kept telling us it was going to happen during the storm. We didn’t want it to, but it did. We’re glad we’re in a safe place. They’re looking out for us really well here.”
Mable Louise Hill and Perry Lee Hewett met more than 20 years ago. They were admitted to the hospital separately on September 14. It’s one thing to be sick and alone, but another to be ill with a loved one.
“We are so happy to be here together,” said Hewett. He described their relationship as being “love at first phone,” having fallen in love with her voice before they met face to face. Although love was in the air, Hill didn’t want to tie the knot in the middle of a hurricane.
Novant Health’s Emergency Preparedness manager, Matt Merritt, said Novant Health was prepared for the storm, with generators, backup systems, additional food, water and medications. And in preparation for the storm’s arrival, the hospital also moved some patients inland, out of caution.
Ashton Miller, Novant Health’s public relations manager, said the company is part of a regional healthcare preparedness coalition and coordinates with state and county emergency management teams to ensure the safety of patients. She said the company is part of a mutual aid agreement signed by nearly all hospitals, which allows them to share staff, easily transfer patients and exchange equipment and supplies under a pre-determined agreement. “This truly makes us one community healthcare system.”
President Stevens remarked on that relationship, saying, “We saw the value of teamwork by working with and supporting other agencies. For example, we shared our helipad with the United States Coast Guard so they could safely land in our community. We also received patients from high water vehicles. I am incredibly proud and impressed with our team and our community’s response to Hurricane Florence. I am so appreciative of our team at the hospital and at our clinics as well as emergency personnel across the county.”
As for the employees who sustained so much damage to their personal property, Stevens said, “My heart is with our team members and others in our area who have experienced losses and damages.” Miller said the company would be trying to support them directly through the medical center Foundation’s Employee Emergency Fund.”