The greatest Inauguration Day challenge for the Washington, D.C.-area hospitals is not adding staff, stocking emergency supplies, or coordinating patient care; it’s getting people in to work Jan. 20.
Most main roads and bridges into the city will be closed to private vehicles. Metro cars are expected to be jammed with hundreds of thousands of riders coming in to watch the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, which is expected to attract between 1 million and 3 million people.
The logistics of getting people and supplies to the hospital on Inauguration Day and the days of celebration preceding it are taking more planning than the preparations to handle patients on that day, says Susan Eckert, RN, MSN, director of the ER One Institute for Innovations in Nursing Readiness at Washington Hospital Center, who is chairwoman of the hospital’s emergency preparedness committee and one of the lead coordinators of the hospital’s inaugural plan.Diane Doyle, RN
“We basically need to shelter in place for a four-day period,” she says. “It’s pretty challenging. People are motivated to get here, but it’s quite daunting.”
“It’s a huge issue,” says Diane M. Doyle, RN, PhDc, MS, disaster preparedness coordinator for the Inova Health System, which includes five hospitals in northern Virginia.
As of Wednesday afternoon, hospitals were asking Virginia state officials to allow healthcare workers access to the closed roads, but state police say they do not have enough people to check the credentials of everyone wanting to drive through, according to Doyle.
In the meantime, hospitals are keeping workers updated about road closures, while urging them to stay with friends living nearby or take back roads to work. Hospitals also are offering employees the option of spending the night at the facilities.
About 900 of the WHC staff, most of them physicians and nurses, live in Virginia, which has virtually shut down private transit into Washington on Inauguration Day. WHC is about four miles from the National Mall.
The hospital plans to extend cafeteria hours, set up cots in various rooms, and broadcast the inaugural speeches and other events on big-screen TVs set up throughout the hospital so workers have a comfortable place to watch it during breaks, says Elizabeth Wykpisz, RN, MS, MBA, CNAA, C, CHE, the hospital’s chief nursing officer. Staff also can stay Tuesday night if they don’t want to fight the traffic out of the city, she says.
The George Washington University Hospital, about 1.5 miles from the National Mall, plans to show movies and offer snacks to staffers who choose to spend the night on Monday, says Leena Salazar, RN, BSN, director of the hospital’s ED.
The hospital plans to set up a sleeping area on its top floor, or workers can sleep on their units if they prefer, Salazar says. No one is required to spend the night, she says, and the hospital is still working out how many will need a place to stay. “I don’t think it will be as many as we had thought it would be,” she says.
Inova’s Fairfax and Alexandria Hospitals, which are the health systems closest to the inauguration area, plan to have buses pick up employees at specific spots and bring them to work, Doyle says. Buses will be allowed on the closed roads.
Some workers from Inova Alexandria Hospital will be able to stay with community members who have volunteered their homes, Doyle says. As a last resort, both Alexandria and Fairfax will have some space for workers who need to spend the night. Fairfax, Inova’s largest facility, will set up cots on its newly refurbished fourth floor, which has not yet been opened to patients, Doyle says.
“If an [adverse] event occurs, we will have to open it” for patient care, she adds.
Wykpisz says she will be among the nurses staying overnight at the hospital. She has volunteered to work at the hospital’s incident command center during the inauguration and wants to be sure she’s at work on time.
Salazar, who lives about an hour away in Virginia, says she also plans to spend Monday night in her office. “I don’t want to deal with driving,” she says. “It’s much easier for me to just stay.”
Salazar is looking forward to the sleepover, she says. “We’re trying to make it fun.”