Is West Valley Hospital ready for the eclipse? You bet!

 WVH eclipse planning

A place at the table. Eclipse planning meetings included representatives from West Valley Hospital, Polk County Public Health, Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator, Polk County Fire/EMS, Dallas Police, Monmouth/Independence Police, Dallas Fire/EMS, Polk County Sherriff, Dallas Public Works/Engineering and Environmental Services and Oregon Health Authority Health Preparedness Program (HPP) Liaison, Region 2.

When is the eclipse?

Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, with totality at 10:16 a.m. over Dallas for a total 1 minute and 57 seconds.

Why is Polk County being affected by this eclipse?

A total solar eclipse can only be seen from within a relatively narrow strip of the Earth’s surface known as the path of totality. Within this region — which is only about 90 miles wide — the sun appears to be completely eclipsed by the moon, and the moon’s shadow on the Earth plunges observers into twilight for several minutes. In this temporary twilight, known as totality, temperatures drop and stars become visible. Observers on either side of the path of totality see only a partial solar eclipse, in which the moon somewhat blocks the sun but daylight still persists.

What is the hospital in Dallas doing to prepare for all of the extra people in our community?

Everything is better with a little practice. The hospital had a practice drill to set up the “surge” tent (in case we have more patients than can safely be treated within the hospital) on July 6.

For the actual event weekend of Friday, Aug. 18, through Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, we are:

  • Communicating with many of our EMS, City, and Polk County agencies to align services and to build a strong community network. 
  • Tentatively planning to set up the surge tent on Thursday night. It will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Monday for lower acuity patients to free up the emergency room for those with more intense needs.
  • Planning for a large volume of patients to seek care through our emergency department and staffing units to support the higher volumes Friday through Tuesday.
  • Ensuring that units have the supplies they need to care for larger numbers of patients and assuming that we will have challenges moving patients to other facilities due to traffic. 
  • Making sure pharmacy, RT, IT, and security will all have a presence here for portions of the weekend.
  • Running a weekend schedule on some units to free up staff to help in other units. Surgery will be helping out in the surge tent. Some units will be minimally cross trained to assist in other areas.
  • Opening the Monmouth medical clinic Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for limited walk-in services.

How is the hospital taking care of staff during the eclipse weekend?

Nutrition services will be providing complementary pre-prepared meals Friday night through Monday morning for scheduled staff.

The hospital is also opening up staff parking for self-contained campers and motorhomes for the weekend to make access to the hospital easy for staff who would normally commute. We have limited local housing options for the weekend also.

How do I prepare my family for this event?

  • Purchase ISO certified glasses now for every family member that plans to view the eclipse.  You MUST wear glasses to prevent eye damage and they can be worn over your regular eye glasses.  Think of these as a filter, they are not sunglasses and should not be worn for that purpose.  You should wear these glasses while the eclipse is partial though it would be too dark during totality. 
  • Stock up on plenty of patience!!  Traffic will be heavy and your normal route may not be available so know your alternates. Better yet, avoid unnecessary travel.
  • Expect that your cell phone service will be overworked.  Minimize use of social media and mobile data.
  • Stop at the bank and have cash on hand, stock up on basic grocery items and water, fill prescriptions and OTC medications, fill your gas tanks and expect shortages. Take care of your pets by leaving them home with plenty of food and water.

When is the next total eclipse in our area? 

Don’t miss this one — the next opportunity isn’t until Jan. 25, 2316. Tell your great great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren to be on the lookout for an eclipse planning committee sign-up sheet in fall 2315!

Thank you to all of the Salem Health West Valley Hospital Solar Eclipse Planning Committee members for taking the lead to ensure West Valley Hospital is prepared for this once-in-a-lifetime event. We appreciate everyone’s support and flexibility as we work to plan for an event that has many unknowns.

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