During severe winter weather events, such as the January 2015 blizzard on the East Cost, many businesses struggle to keep their doors open. Cities may issue travel bans for non-essential travel, resulting in employees not being able to get to work. Patients and consumers may not be able to make their appointments even though they still need the scheduled service. Healthcare businesses can use these five strategies to continue to serve their customers during severe winter weather events.
Create Makeshift Living Quarters
Businesses that provide essential healthcare services such as dialysis might consider creating an on-site area that staff can use as a makeshift living quarters for the duration of the weather event, suggests Casey Ross, Deirdre Fernandes and Taryn Luna of the Boston Globe. Patients can still be served and staff will not have to risk traveling on treacherous roads.
In advance of the winter weather season, companies in the healthcare sector can stockpile essential supplies within reason. Items such as gauze and syringes have no expiration date while saline solution and bleach have a shelf life of several years. Employees should be advised to rotate the stock of supplies so as to not let anything go beyond the recommended use by date. Fuel for generators can be purchased a few days before the winter storm arrives.
Cut Out Non-Essential Services
During a severe weather event when staffing is minimal, any non-essential services should be temporarily halted until the roads are cleared and any power outages or supply shortages are restored. Non-essential services might include elective surgeries, second opinions, consultations and routine checkups. All of these services can be postponed by a few days or up to a few weeks without harming a patient’s health.
Offer Online Services
When the roads are unsafe for patients or staff to travel to a healthcare facility or clinic, online services may be a viable alternative. According to The River Source, services such as online aftercare may be an option when weather conditions make travel to the clinic detrimental to a patient’s safety. Online check-ins or counseling sessions through live video and audio feeds allow a patient and doctor to see and hear each other through a secure internet connection. This type of service may be especially helpful in the healthcare sectors of mental health and addiction.
Make Alternative Arrangements
Healthcare businesses should consider making alternative arrangements for both staff and patients during a severe winter weather event. Employees may be housed at a nearby hotel and transported by snowmobile or a 4-wheel drive company-owned vehicle. Alternatively, employees who live near the work site might offer to have one or two co-workers stay at their home until the storm has passed. In this way, a small contingent of workers can remain on the job to provide basic and essential services to patients with life-threatening or serious conditions that cannot wait for the storm to subside.