February 4, 2009 Edition

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LHS goes above and beyond to
meet needs of community,
patients and staff

Ernest (Junior) Briner visits with Alice Gillespie of Hoxie, who has resided at the shelter provided by Lawrence Health Services for area residents with special medical needs. LHS used the dining rooms of Lawrence Hall Nursing Center to set up cots for use as a shelter during the power outage.
TD Photo ~ John Bland
John Bland

Since the ice storm and power outages began early last week, Lawrence Health Services has been busy feeding the public, sheltering those with medical needs and keeping up with the regular needs of patients, residents and staff at the hospital and nursing home.

"I just think that our employees have done an awesome job," said Terry Lambert, LHS president, on Monday afternoon.

"They have exhibited unequaled teamwork, professionalism and compassion to our patients, their co-workers and people in the community who came to us for help," Lambert said. "Every department has gone above and beyond.

Ernest (Junior) Briner, LHS vice president of support services, said, "We've learned a great lesson from this and have notes so that we can be better prepared next time. You can practice these things and test them, but you never know till a disaster happens."

"I'm real proud of all the employees and the great job they're doing," Briner said.

Briner, along with Vanessa Wagner, chief financial officer, and Sherri Brown, senior director of human resources, talked Sunday afternoon about all that the hospital has done during the ordeal caused by the ice storm of '09 in Lawrence County and much of northern Arkansas.

During the peak need, Lawrence Health Services fed an extra 300 to 500 each day, along with residents, patients and staff, estimated Briner. During the first two days of the power outages, LHS was the only facility with (generator) power and who was feeding people, he added.

Many donate food to LHS

Susan Lyles and Carolyn Lane of the LHS dietary department said they received food from several sources to help them feed the public the complimentary meals. They said Harps supermarket, two daycares, the BRAD Head Start Center, Westside School and Jack Allison and the Polar Freeze helped the hospital supply food for these meals.

LHS received extra help from other businesses and institutions to keep functioning despite the disaster. The banks worked with them in getting out their payroll.

"Wal-Mart has been great to work with us," Briner said. Even though Wal-Mart was closed most of the week, they allowed LHS to get supplies, such as extension cords and power strips, as needed.

"Employees have been filling in as needed in areas they don't normally work in," said the LHS officers. When power was lost to LHS's daycare, Jelly Bean Junction, a temporary daycare was set up in the hospital's conference room.

Each afternoon, while the hospital and nursing center were operating on generators, Farm Service, Inc. came to deliver $1,000 to $1,500 worth of diesel fuel to keep them running.

"We run the generators every week to test them, but never had they run this long," Briner said.

Regular electrical power returned to LHS around 4:30 to 5 p.m. on Saturday. "You should have heard all the shouting going on around here when the power came on," Briner said.

Entergy personnel did their best to keep LHS personnel updated on the progress to restore power, he added.

LHS also made provisions to enable employees to wash their clothes and take showers at the facility.

Shelter aids those with medical needs

Those with special healthcare needs were sheltered at Lawrence Hall, while healthy individuals were sent to other shelters. To keep track of the extra visitors who have stayed at the LHS shelter, staff members registered them and banded them with hospital wristbands.

"Our nurses have done a great job, as some needed total care," Briner said.

Sheila Sanders is one of the local residents who has benefited from the LHS shelter. Sanders, who has had open-heart surgery, said she lives across from Farm Service and came to this area three years ago after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

She said of the LHS staff, "These people are truly the most cordial, accommodating people. They have a sense of humor and are truly beautiful people."

Amelia Bragg of Hoxie, who requires oxygen, was also staying at the LHS shelter. "They didn't have to do this," she said.

"I've been treated real well here," said Alice Gillespie of Hoxie, who also requires oxygen and was at the LHS shelter.

Lambert said, "I really would like to give special recognition to Junior Briner for what I would call a yeoman's job."

"Everybody has just really pulled together and made it work," he said. Office workers have pitched in to mop or serve food in the cafeteria as needed, said Lambert, who also pitched in to serve food as well.

"It's just been amazing to watch it all work. Lawrence County is fortunate to have this hospital and the kind of employees we have working for them," said Lambert, whose first day at LHS was Jan. 5.

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