Is NMC’s Water Situation Back to Normal?

Yes. After a very challenging week, things are back to normal. Last week, water pressure on NMC’s campus was diminished and ultimately lost completely during the repair of multiple simultaneous water main breaks in St. Albans. Loss of water at a hospital impacts the ability to heat the facility; the functionality of toilets and emergency eyewash stations; food preparation and dish washing; access to drinking water for patients, visitors, and staff; and normal approaches to hand washing, cleaning, and equipment sterilization. Our team had to react quickly, draw upon their emergency preparedness training and resources, and find appropriate solutions to preserve our healing environment. As the water main repairs were put in place, water pressure began to be restored and water use was phased back in strategically across NMC’s campus. With the lifting of the general “Boil Water” order for St. Albans this past Friday, NMC was able to re-establish full and normal use of water at the hospital and in the physician practices on our main campus.

This kind of broad water service disruption can have serious consequences if not handled immediately and properly. In some cases, hospitals actually plan to close in the event of a loss of water: ceasing care and evacuating patients. Fortunately, thanks to the hard work of municipal crews from the City and the Town, the tireless efforts of the NMC team, and strong support from our emergency management colleagues at the City and at the Vermont Department of Health, NMC was able to preserve appropriate patient care throughout the multi-day incident. I am so proud of everyone involved for rising to the occasion with a shared focus on what was best for our patients. I happened to be out of town for the week, but received regular updates from my team on how efforts were unfolding. It was quite an effort for our staff, physicians, and advanced practice providers and they have my sincere thanks for meeting the challenge.

The Public Works crews who worked around the clock in sub-zero temperatures to identify the breaks, dig through feet of frozen ground to reach them, determine how to repair them, and implement the fixes were amazing. Dealing with leaking (gushing!) water outside when it is 15 below – and doing so amidst the frozen mess it creates – is no easy task. Knowing that neighboring residents, nearby hospital patients, and others are depending on you for a timely and effective fix only adds to the pressure of the situation. As NMC’ers, we join everyone in our community in thanking those workers for their incredible effort. I was pleased to hear that NMC’s Restaurant & Catering Team made and delivered hot breakfast sandwiches to them on their worksite one morning as a sign of our appreciation. That’s very “NMC” right there.

My team and I are deeply appreciative of the collaboration and clear communication from our partners. We were well served by Chief Gary Taylor, who coordinated the overall response. We were fortunate to have Lieutenant Judy Dunn from the City actually in, or in close contact with, the hospital’s incident command center to ensure we had accurate up-to-date information throughout the event.  Similarly, Judy Ashley and Chad Spooner of our local Vermont Department of Health office participated at NMC, providing insight and guidance. We received timely support from our colleagues at the University of Vermont Medical Center that was key in maintaining appropriate patient care. We also received great service from P & P Septic Service of Williston as we reached out for two shipments of port-o-lets to preserve access to our emergency chemical toilets for our patients. Most of all, we owe our sincerest thanks to our patients and visitors. Their patience, flexibility, and good spirits were key in our efforts to continue to care for their needs amidst challenging circumstances.

It is amazing to see how our entire community rallied with the NMC staff in this situation. We have worked hard on emergency preparedness over the years and invested in resources for possible emergencies and last week, that investment paid off. We are proud to refer to ourselves as a “community hospital” and it is inspiring to see our partners rally to our side and appreciated that our patients were right there with us as well. Thank you to all who were involved directly and indirectly. This was an exceptional effort in an extraordinary circumstance. Bravo.

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer