Recovering After Hurricane Laura

CHRISTUS Ochsner Health Southwestern Louisiana has faced a number of challenges in its 112 years serving the people of Lake Charles and surrounding communities, including Hurricane Rita. Hurricane Laura, however, brought widespread destruction and many challenges that seemed insurmountable.

August 27, 2020 Hurricane Laura was nearing landfall, and CHRISTUS Ochsner Health Southwestern Louisiana braced for the impact of this devastating storm. Despite the risk, several of our Associates bravely remained, rode out the storms in our hospitals and continued to care for our patients. Here are their emotional experiences in their own words.

Just as our Lake Charles Associates have supported their coworkers across the country in their times of need in the past, CHRISTUS Health is working alongside our brothers and sisters who need us today. We are One CHRISTUS, and through our solidarity, commitment and mission, we have been able to keep our doors open to the people of Lake Charles who need our help most of all.

st patrick departure 2017
Staff and supplies depart St. Patrick in 2017 to assist at St. Elizabeth

One of the hospitals in the city, CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area, suffered considerable damage in multiple areas, so leaders were forced to temporarily close. Teams weathered the storm there with their patients and then transferred them to other facilities after surveying the damage, including 4 NICU babies, who were transferred to the hospital’s sister location, CHRISTUS Southeast Texas St. Elizabeth. The system positioned expert remediation teams nearby before the storm, and were able reopen the facility on September 4, 2020.

Damage to Lake Area Hurricane Laura
Damage at Lake Area

We understand the difficulties involved in restoring utility services across the area. As a result, CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital continues to serve the community using backup power and its secondary water supply system as they work to repair damages to the facility and treat the numerous patients there who need hospital care.

Though generators have been part of hospital emergency preparations for some time, the secondary water supply delivery system is a new addition from CHRISTUS sister hospital in Beaumont, Texas. When Hurricane Harvey flooded the region in 2017, the hospital’s water supply was compromised.

secondary water system
CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth’s seccondary water system in 2017

During the recovery, CHRISTUS experts immediately began building a system to ensure water would be available in times of crisis and began implementing it at every CHRISTUS facility that faces the threat of flooding and severe weather. It is this water system that has allowed CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital to remain serving Lake Charles during this time.

Remaining open during this difficult has required the support of a full health care system and new resources every day. Nurses, security personnel and other frontline caregivers are coming from across the CHRISTUS system to treat patients and relieve those who have been at the hospital since the storm: nurses from Longview, Texas, facilities experts from Beaumont, and more.

CHRISTUS Health is proud to support their talented and resilient Associates. They do know that some Associates were impacted by Hurricane Laura and have lost everything they own—homes, cars, clothing, etc., and they are collecting donations to support their own. And with some roads still unpassable, many Associates are struggling to make it to the hospital. With travel severely limited and often impossible, showers were set up onsite for Associates to use between shifts.

COVID-19 further complicated the hospital’s plans to shelter-in-place during the storm. In the past, the hospital has been able to house plenty of staff easily. However, the hospital’s census was higher than usual due to COVID-19, and increased masking and distancing requirements meant that there was less room for staff to stay safely. A sleeping trailer has been deployed so Associates can rest and regain their strength.

Still others are unable to find gasoline for their cars, so a tanker truck was set up at CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Hospital for all CHRISTUS Ochsner Associates to utilize to fuel their vehicles. Because so many retail locations are closed, a grocery store is being set up for Associates at both the CHRISTUS St. Patrick facility where Associates will use voucher to purchase items.

Hurricane Laura brought with it many challenges as well as the opportunity to fulfill the CHRISTUS Health mission “to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.” Even amidst the destruction, the statues of Jesus at each CHRISTUS hospital campus remain intact, a tangible example of the providential care these facilities and caregivers received as they faced yet one more storm together.

Statue at St Patrick
Statue at St. Patrick
Statue at Lake Area