Meals After Matthew
In 39 years of working in the cafeteria, Inell McCray had never seen so many people waiting for a meal at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital.
Power outages caused by Hurricane Matthew were gripping much of the area, and employee and physician partners were sheltering in place at the facility. In addition, some community residents without power
had turned to the hospital for help.
A long line of hungry people anxiously awaiting breakfast Sunday morning snaked from Tidelands Georgetown’s cafeteria, through the lobby and to the entrance doors.
“They just poured in,” said McCray, 59.
By then, the Georgetown resident was on day seven of what would become 12 consecutive days of work. As one of many Tidelands team members who had been working long hours and sleeping at the hospital to ensure she could make it to work, she was tired and keen to return home.
Yet she pushed forward, recognizing that her team’s efforts were crucial not only to the patients at the hospital but also to staff and the community.
“We had a lot of people say, ‘Thank you,’” McCray said. “That made you feel so good.”
McCray’s story of dedication during the storm is both deeply inspiring and wonderfully familiar. In the face of widespread flooding, paralyzing power outages and heartbreaking property damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, countless Tidelands employee partners during the storm selflessly prioritized their work for the health system, and by extension the community, over their own personal considerations and concerns.
Critical to Tidelands’ success in maintaining hospital operations were support departments including, but not limited to, Dietary, Environmental Services, Materials Management and Plant Services.
McCray and her colleagues during the storm opened the cafeteria three times per day, instead of two, to feed employee, physician and volunteer partners who stayed overnight. Production ramped up to a frenzied level. The number of meals served in the cafeteria during the weekend eclipsed normal service by a factor of four. Meanwhile, the team continued to offer its full room service menu of more than 80 options to patients in the hospital.
Dietary’s partners in Environmental Services ensured the availability of linens and maintained clean conditions throughout the hospitals. Materials Management made sure cots were available for staff who slept overnight, and Plant Services addressed water leaks and ensured building integrity.
“We are blessed to have such an incredible team of people working at Tidelands Health,” said Gayle Resetar, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “There’s not a more dedicated and committed group anywhere in the country.”
In dietary, the roles of each employee partner sometimes became blurred as the team responded to the demand for food, said Miller Dozier, lead supervisor. Like McCray, Dozier worked up to 14 hours per day in response to the storm.
“I was lead supervisor but then we needed a cook, so I had to be the cook and whatever else needed to be done in the kitchen,” Dozier. “If we saw it needed to be done, we just went on and did it.”
McCray, a woman whose broad smile and warm, engaging personality make even a stranger feel like family, lamented the inability to take the time, as she normally does, to converse with customers and inquire about the latest news affecting their families.
“We were swamped,” she remembered. “We never had the time to look up.”
After sleeping at Tidelands Georgetown from Thursday night through Saturday night, she returned to her home after work Sunday to the disappointing realization it still lacked electricity. Within half an hour, though, the lights flickered to life.
“It was just a blessing,” she said. “I said, ‘God is so good.’ ”