Midwest health systems brace for winter storm

Hospitals and health systems in the Midwest are closely monitoring a winter storm, which is expected to produce a blizzard and has resulted in weather warnings across the region. The storm comes as Americans have made holiday travel plans.

Six updates:

1. The storm is expected to strengthen into a powerful blizzard over the Midwest from Dec. 22 to Dec. 23, and a snowstorm was already affecting parts of the Plains and Rockies on Dec. 21, according to AccuWeather. Several health systems have readied staff contingency plans and taken other measures to prepare for the weather event.

2. Sinai Chicago will monitor updated storm projections and evaluate the need for staff respite facilities on its Mount Sinai Hospital and Holy Cross Hospital campuses in the event employees need to stay overnight due to storm conditions, a spokesperson told Becker's. "We are asking all caregivers to stay informed about weather updates to be aware of conditions, and plan ahead for challenging travel and much longer than normal commutes," he said. "Caregivers are also encouraged to think about storm preparations for them and their families at home, and we have provided resources for information and tips to keep our caregivers and their loved ones safe." The health system is also moving forward with mitigation activities that include snow removal contractors prepared to run 24-hour operations; deploying additional floor mats to main and emergency room entrances; and working with police to ensure access for snow removal vehicles.

3. UW Health in Madison, Wis., is closely monitoring weather forecasts and will adjust operational plans as needed, a spokesperson told Becker's. As of Dec. 21, the health system planned to open all facilities with regular hours. The spokesperson said any facility closures, delayed openings or early closings will be communicated to staff and patients with appointments as needed. The UW Health emergency departments will remain open around the clock.

4. Rush University System for Health in Chicago "is always ready to invoke its emergency operations plan whenever there is the potential patient care may be disrupted," a spokesperson told Becker's. The health system is preparing onsite accommodations and readying staffing contingency plans to ensure adequate staffing during the winter storm.

5. Advocate Health, a newly combined system resulting from the merger of Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health, dually headquartered in Milwaukee and Downers Grove, Ill., is "engaged in various preparedness initiatives covering staffing, supplies, emergency generators, snow/ice removal, sheltering, and working with local emergency management agencies and fire/police departments, including to help address issues related to vulnerable populations' access to care," according to a statement shared with Becker's. The statement said the health system is also communicating helpful tips to employees and patients for winter weather safety and preparedness.

6. Cook County Health in Chicago shared a Dec. 21 news release with Becker's outlining its preparation efforts for the incoming winter storm. The efforts include transitioning outpatient primary care services and some specialty care services at CCH community health centers and at Stroger and Provident hospitals to telehealth visits on Dec. 23. Other efforts include making free valet parking available to patients at the Stroger Hospital entrance on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23; closing COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites Dec. 23 and Dec. 24; and preparations to ensure adequate staffing.

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