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December 4, 2012

Accreditation: Weathering the Storm by Steven Voytovich


Featured in photo: (left to right)
Back Row: John deVelder, NY/NJ Chapter Site Reviewer; Nelson Toebbe, EHS CEO; Nat Etrog, Chair of Advisory Committee; Carlos Alejandro, NY/NJ Chapter Site Reviewer; Rosina Ampah, CPSP Diplomate in Ghana; Nancy Schaffer, EHS SIT; Francine Hernandez, CPSP Diplomate at EHS; Denise Parker Lawrence and Asnel Valcin, EHS SITs.
Front Row: Cecily Broderick y Guerra, Vice President for Pastoral Care; Ken Blank, outside consultant (laptop); Abdus-Salaam Musa, EHS Indigenous SIT; Steven Voytovich, EHS CPE Director.

By this time life for many on the East Coast has returned to some degree of normal following Storm Sandy. For others, however, the storm aftermath continues unbroken following home destruction, transportation disruption, and family members trying to find food and shelter wherever they are able to while trying to piece some semblance of life back together during what has now become the holiday season. While running on the oceanside beach in Far Rockaway today as I often do, a lone mailbox sat facing the water. I could hear through the wind as I passed by: “Address no longer known, but still awaiting a response to know someone remembers or cares.”

St. John’s Hospital, part of Episcopal Health Services (EHS), was evacuated for Storm Irene last summer. As Storm Sandy approached, word came from the Emergency Operation Center in New York that we would weather the storm in place not even a mile from the ocean. You may recall that several hospitals in metropolitan New York were forced to evacuate during the storm due to generator failure or cascading storm damage. More than eighty homes were destroyed by fire in nearby Breezy Point in the midst of the storms as fire fighters were not able to reach this area. You can click on this link to see CBS photos of the area. Our food service staff provided three meals a day with one working oven to support staff, many that did not have homes to go to.

EHS CPE has been no stranger to operating courageously in less than ideal conditions. The institution and training program both survived bankruptcy restructuring only a few years after CPE was formally initiated, and we have more recently been working with the new management team arriving in 2010. Travel and other costs related to Indigenous training launched here was in the early days funded mostly by the faculty themselves. However, the CPE program was now significantly overdue for a re-accreditation review. Two solid years of preparation were complete, and all relevant parties had been scheduled for the review. Our CPE accreditation review was schedule to occur on October 31st and November 1st, just days after the storm. While working at home in CT over the weekend I continued to be in touch with our reviewers updating with latest information, and with our administrators and diocesan offices to update our preparations and plans related to the accreditation review. Due to damage, all the planned meetings preparing for the review had to be cancelled early in the week.

Do we cancel due to the storm, or move through it in place? For EHS, this storm, while having a more significant impact on the lives of our staff, was one of many we have endured in recent months. Our recent Diplomate Rosina Ampah remained here in the US from Ghana to shadow the reviewers in order to experience accreditation firsthand. Perhaps following the courage of the hospital itself, we decided to weather the storm in place with a compact, one day review on November 1st. A compelling argument for proceeding was based in part on the reality that our site reviewers, not connected with EHS as either employees or trainees, had experience in both indigenous training and disaster response! Ken had been part of the last review conducted here and therefore could provide meaningful continuity as outside consultant.

We are most grateful for John deVelder and Carlos Alejandro who braved the roads lacking any working traffic signals in getting to us. They had the self study materials in advance and were prepared for the review. Our hospital remained on emergency generator power, with only vital patient care areas lighted and heated. Ken Blank’s flight was canceled as JFK Airport remained closed. In deciding to move ahead, I arranged with Ken in advance to connect via Skype in order to participate in the review. One of my jobs during the course of the day was to keep Ken connected by charging the laptop battery between sessions in order that he was ultimately able to fully participate in every session of the review!

Our CEO, Nelson Toebbe, and one nursing home administrator took time to meet with reviewers in the midst of responding to emergent needs. The Rev. Dr. Cecily Broderick y Guerra, Vice President of Pastoral Care, staff chaplains and trainees, and Dr. Francine Hernandez with me met with the reviewers in the midst of ministering to patients and staff while tending to their own storm related losses. A number of our advisory committee members were also able to make it in to be with us at lunch to bear witness to their hard work. Many meetings occurred in our executive conference room that had no power. This photo itself was taken at the end of the review in this same room, with the laptop representing Ken who suffered virtual bruising in the course of the day with the laptop’s movement!

Though I did not witness this, Mr. Toebbe began the afternoon management crisis briefing later that afternoon by excitedly asking what hospital just had a very positive CPE re-accreditation review? He shared the events of the day, with the CPE site review being one of two programs undergoing accreditation reviews. This became a bit of celebratory news in the midst of our efforts, that have continued since, to support staff who have in turn tirelessly continued to serve in their caregiving roles while piecing their own lives back together. In having this review completed, our attention could now be fully turned to continued disaster response and recovery. Indeed, when will institutional life have returned close enough to pre Storm Sandy “normal” to warrant re-scheduling? So EHS CPE is weathering the storm aftermath as is our institutional home, strengthened by the affirmations received within our accreditation review for which we are grateful! We ask your prayers for the ongoing efforts that lie ahead in supporting our faithful staff as they continue care for our patients and residents.
The Rev. Dr. Steven Voytovich, Director of CPE
Episcopal Health Services
December 4, 2012

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at December 4, 2012 7:07 PM

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