This story first appeared on Dr. Erin’s blog:
Some people would think that the most important person in a hospital is going to the nurses or doctors or surgeons, but the truth is the most important members of the Hospital are our Maintenance staff. Sure nurses, doctors and surgeons all have special skills that allow them to bring physical healing to patients when they need it, but without power, water, hospital buildings and autoclaves, the care that happens at the hospital can’t happen, as we recently discovered ourselves.
Autoclaves are big machines that sterilize instruments and drapes and keep surgery going. For our hospital it is more than surgery that depends on autoclaves so does the ER, our Labor and Delivery Room, and even our Medical, Surgical and Pediatric ward. We take for granted that each day when we need a clean and sterile suture set to sew up a chop in the ER, that we have one. Or when we need more OB delivery bundles to deliver a baby, that we have them.
We have 2 large autoclaves (one bigger than the other) and then 2 tabletop autoclaves. On most days we are using the 2 big ones a few times a day, and only the small ones for a few special instruments. About 1 week ago that changed. Our one autoclave had been broken for a while and we hadn’t been able to get the part we needed, and then the one we were using each day, also quit working. We thought we had it fixed, but then it broke again. So we went from usually using 2 big autoclaves, to 1 big one, to no big ones and only 2 very small ones.
Despite using the 2 very small ones pretty much around the clock, we couldn’t keep up with the demand our hospital puts on our Central Supply. The Delivery Room delivered 6 babies the one night I was on call this week and I did 2 Csections in that time and we pretty much wiped out all our supply of OB bundles. So when no solution to the problem was insight, we actually had to close the Hospital and just become a clinic – where we could see our outpatients and give medicine, but we couldn’t do surgery or deliver babies, we didn’t have the supplies we needed.
For a number of days, our Maintenance guys (especially Jordan, Nolly and Kulang) have been working around the clock trying to figure out how to fix the 2 autoclaves, even to the point of taking one of them apart and putting it back together. When I was doing the Csection at midnight, they were out there trying to get it going. These guys are really the most important people of the hospital because without them we can’t give the care we need – we can’t deliver babies or do surgery or take care of sick patients when they come to the ER. Too often we take them for granted, but this week sure highlighted just how valuable they are to our Mission Hospital.
After putting in many hours, they got us up and running, with still some kinks to be worked out yet, but we are able to run most of our hospital services now, just not quite fully up to doing all the surgery we would like, but hope to get there soon. After having the unusual site of empty delivery beds this past week, it was nice to have each delivery room full this morning, and is a good sign that we are able to be functioning again – thanks to our Maintenance guys.
-Dr. Erin Meier (Director of Medical Services)