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Weather or not: Hospitals plan to get employees to work

Posted January 29, 2010

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— Many employees of area hospitals will call the facilities home this weekend.

Because hospitals cannot shut down in bad weather and employees must find a way to get to work, many have decided to bunk down at work rather than risk commuting through the ice and snow.

North Carolina Memorial Hospital, part of UNC Hospitals Employees bunk down in hospitals during storm

"As a nurse, it's my responsibility to be here and take care of the patients, no matter what the weather is," said Rachel Calva, a nurse at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

Ten years ago, when 20 inches of snow fell on the Triangle, Calva tried to commute to work and had a close call on Interstate 40.

"It was like a rebirth for me, and I said, 'Thank God, I did not have a bad accident,'" she said. "My car spun, and then somebody helped me and brought me back to the hospital."

Calva said she wasn't hurt in the incident, but she said she won't chance the slick roads again. She plans to stay at the hospital through Sunday between her 12-hour shifts.

"This time, I would rather stay here and be safe," she said. "UNC will provide me a place to stay and a place to sleep and meal tickets."

UNC Hospitals is setting up at least 90 cots for workers, said Tom Smith, director of police and transportation. About 600 employees are scheduled to work each day.

"It's a weekend. There's a little bit less activity. The clinics are mostly closed on the weekends, so you'll find much fewer employees," Smith said. "It's good that this is happening (Friday night) because parking is available."

Employees who need to arrive early for weekend shifts can, he said, and the hospital likely won't need to line up drivers in four-wheel-drive vehicles to pick up other employees.

"For shorter-term events, we've not found that we need to do that," he said, adding that managers could adjust those plans if the winter weather stays around longer than expected.

Smith encouraged UNC Hospitals employees to check the hospital Web site for information, as well as Chapel Hill's Web site, which includes a map of what streets have been treated in the town.

Calva said it's nice to know somebody is looking out for her.

"It makes me feel much better. It makes me feel less lonely. I feel like (this is) home, even though I'm not home," she said.


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