All the staff were ice storm victims themselves. The personnel were all living in the same environment, the infamous triangle. So they went to work, but at the same time, at home, they were in need, sometimes young families and children were in need. We dealt with all this to make sure that they were okay and at the same time to maintain customer service. It was a significant challenge.
At night, we turned on the gas generators. We received the generators and rushed around getting them set up in the middle of night, in the cold and dark, to ensure as much autonomy as possible, both at the CLSC… because the CLSC did not have any power generators. The CHSLD (Saint-Jean hospital) had a generator but its capacity was minimal and there were important safety issues, like oxygen therapy, patients with decreasing independence, comfort, various types of care, and customer service. Therefore, our number one priority was to have support generators to provide an acceptable level of autonomy.
I also had another issue to deal with. My issue also in regard to patients was ambulance services. It was a major issue. From the first day on, I had to ensure that we had at least a safe access in our building for an ambulance, so that we could put our patients in an ambulance if there was an emergency and a patient had to be transferred elsewhere. Here, we worked extensively with our partners, the municipal workers from the city, firefighters, the police. The cooperation with all those people was extraordinary. I’d call the city and five minutes later a team would arrive and move heaven and earth to help us. They were just as concerned as we were about the patients and their comfort and safety. This kept us going through the ice storm. The way those people made themselves available was remarkable.
In terms of our patients who were longer at home, the CLSC took charge of them and took these patients to shelters and it was our staff—nurses, all the psychosocial teams—who went to the shelters to look after the patients who had been evacuated from their homes, who voluntarily left because there had been effective follow-up with our partners who… because there was a lot of support and assistance from soldiers, firefighters, going door to door and there was a liaison between them and our clinical staff to ensure that if there were a problem or if someone visited needed help, the liaison would automatically be established and these people would be sent to shelters. In the shelters, health care personnel looked after these people.
In our day-to-day lives, to be able to… since the ATMs were not working, you needed cash and I figured out a way to get cash. There was a restaurant in Saint-Jean that sold chicken and did not take credit cards, because those weren’t working either. So I made an arrangement with the owner so that, when I needed cash, I called him. I told him, “I need 15,000 bucks.” He said OK. The CLSC gave him a cheque. He was given a cheque and we left with the cash and paid our employees. We needed gas, we needed all sorts of things. That’s how we managed.