Volunteer packing tin cans into cardboard box
Our Care

People Helping People: Teaming Up to Provide Aid During Hurricane Season

December 14, 2017

How the HCA Healthcare human resources teams were put to the test during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — and passed with flying colors.

Houston Hope Fund volunteers

HR Group team onsite in Houston, assisting with the immediate needs of employees in the aftermath of the storms.

Hurricanes tear through communities, upending lives and complicating even the most ordinary of tasks: Checking to see if your house has flooded; getting bleach and other supplies to clean up storm damage; finding transportation to work if your car is out of commission; and figuring out how–and where–to report to work if your facility is closed.

And then there are the obstacles faced by those who want to help, like how to volunteer in an affected area or where to sign up to donate funds, or paid time off (PTO), to those areas.

The dedicated teams in the Human Resources Group worked nonstop before, during and after hurricanes Irma and Harvey to make sure HCA Healthcare employees had answers to all of these questions and access to the information they needed to take next steps.  The quick, coordinated efforts of the Human Resources Group were made possible by the transformation of the HCA Healthcare Human Resources Group into a more streamlined, centralized operation.  When the hurricanes hit and thousands of employees were in need of immediate HR assistance, that massive reinvention was tested — and passed with flying colors.

“Through the unified platform of HCAhrAnswers, we have a single system across all of HCA Healthcare,” says John Steele, Senior Vice President of the Human Resources Group. “That meant we weren’t wrestling with different payroll systems in different divisions, so people could get paid. It also meant that people who wanted to volunteer to go into the affected areas, give to the Hope Fund or donate some of their PTO to colleagues could get information on how to do all that from a single source.”

Even with seeing photos of what Houston looked like before and after, and being told about the losses, it was still very emotional when we first met with our fellow employees there.

— De-Andrea Harris, HR Business Partner MountainView Hospital, Las Vegas

OUTREACH EFFORTS TAKE MANY FORMS

One potential roadblock to providing assistance came in the form of the different types of damage wrought by the hurricanes. In Florida, the damage was primarily from wind, while in Houston the days of torrential rain caused flooding and more long-term access issues. At the same time, Houston was a smaller geographic area for outreach teams to access compared with most of the state of Florida.

“We had two models: a virtual human resources center, where we created a one-stop shop to provide employees with answers to as many questions as possible,” Steele says. “The second was a physical presence — the buses we sent into Houston. They literally went from facility to facility over the course of two weeks, providing everything from EAP (employee assistance counselors) and Hope Fund contacts to basic cleaning and hygiene supplies, thanks to our collaboration with Supply Chain.”

Our mission was to be the big red ‘Easy’ button for HCA Healthcare employees to get the assistance they needed.

— Regina Mabe, Senior HR Business Partner Lewis Gale Hospital, Salem, Va.

Employee Response Team

HR Group team members from across HCA Healthcare raced to their colleagues in need in Texas and Florida, many staying for days and even weeks afterwards.

The virtual center was key to being effective in Florida not just because of the number of facilities affected,  but also the geographic spread of those entities.

“We have surgery centers, physician practices, urgent care, regional labs, transfer and contact centers, some of which are not co-located with our hospitals, so we needed a solution that could reach everyone quickly,” explains Sissy Stevinson, Vice President of Human Resource Operations for HCA Healthcare’s Integrated Lines of Business.

“We knew a lot of these employees would have difficulty traveling to a hospital to meet with our team members or to pick up supplies, so we developed a virtual center that could be deployed to help them,” she says. “Providing a staffed resource center at a single call-in number made for an easy platform and access to a plethora of resources. For example, the contact center in Fort Myers, a hard-hit area, was 80 miles from the closest HCA Healthcare hospital, so a virtual option was convenient and timely for those in need. Our mission was to assist all employees in need.”

HCA Healthcare’s human-resources personnel know about employee needs, and dozens of them lined up to donate their time, expertise and compassion to their colleagues in need.

Vice president of operations Mason Deal found himself on one of several mobile teams that went to different locations over six days to help 300 employees and their families navigate the support channels that were open
to them.

“We worked from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day, helping people find shelter, food, even drinking water,” Deal says.

I went there thinking that I would help people in need — but not until you are in the situation do you really understand the magnitude of what happened to these people.

— Rolando Alvarez, HR Business Partner Del Sol Medical Center, El Paso

GRATEFUL COLLEAGUES SPURRED VOLUNTEERS’ EFFORTS

Molly Garrison’s team was at different facilities over time, so the vice president of human services for the Continental Division’s Integrated Lines of Business saw the devastation all across the city.

“We would talk about basic benefits, obtaining money, very essential things that people were having trouble with,” she says. “We wanted them to know that we were there to help — whatever they needed, we were going to try to make it happen. I don’t think any of us were prepared for the scope and intensity of what happened to those people,” she says. “From the Hope Fund to giving people bleach and cleaning supplies when the local stores were sold out, HCA Healthcare gave everything it had. I would get overwhelmed, but then I would see someone suffering who was still at work, showing up for their shift and caring for our patients. That kept me going.”