In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, MD Anderson returned to full operations through teamwork, planning and the support of its internal and external communities. While the institution is dedicated to providing excellent care and support for cancer patients, MD Anderson also is committed to assisting and supporting staff affected by the storm. An estimated 35% of MD Anderson's 20,000-person workforce had to evacuate or experienced damage to their homes or vehicles during Harvey.
"This storm directly impacted the lives of our colleagues, and we are focused on doing everything we can to help them get back on their feet," says Marshall Hicks, M.D., president ad interim. "I continue to be awed by the compassion I've seen across our institution and have never been more proud to be a part of the MD Anderson family."
As the storm hovered over Houston in late August, MD Anderson activated its ride-out team to ensure consistent, quality care for patients in the hospital. Nearly 1,000 employees remained on-site for several days to care for 538 patients in the hospital, 15 patients in the Emergency Center and nearly 300 family members. Teams across the institution coordinated efforts despite being on an island surrounded by floodwaters.
Outpatient services closed after all appointments on Friday, Aug.25, and reopened Thursday, Aug. 31, with limited services including some chemotherapy, surgery and radiation treatments. The institution returned to normal staffing on Tuesday, Sept. 5, and to normal operations the next day.
During an average week, MD Anderson has more than 13,000 outpatient appointments, so we had an obligation to our patients to quickly and safely resume our outpatient services to continue offering every patient excellent care.
"Our care teams were on the phones with patients throughout the storm to answer their questions and get them rescheduled as soon as possible. It was a team effort, and we proved that while the storm significantly impacted our people, we are committed to coming together to serve those who entrust us with their lives," says Lu.
Planning and teamwork also protected MD Anderson's research facilities. There were no major losses of power that would have impacted research freezers, and Veterinary Medicine leadership and staff were on-site to care for laboratory animals.
More than 100 staff from UT Southwestern in Dallas, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Phoenix, OhioHealth in Columbus and Northwell Health in New York traveled to MD Anderson to offer additional support where clinical leaders indicated it was needed.
More than 20 police officers from UT Police in Austin, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT San Antonio, UT Police at Arlington and UT System Office of the Director of Police were deployed to protect the safety of patients and employees and provide critical support such as rescue vehicle transports.
Managers regularly checked in with employees, and institutional polls sent via email and text allowed MD Anderson to assess the storm's impact on employees.
In addition to financial support available through the Caring Fund, MD Anderson offers a variety of support services for employees and their families through its Employee Assistance Program. MD Anderson offered employees free childcare throughout September while many schools and daycare centers were closed due to flooding. Additionally, the institution coordinated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to have representatives on-site to provide employee assistance. Other innovative approaches, such as coordinating travel for affected employees through the ride-sharing company Lyft helped employees return to work.