Shortly after midnight on Saturday, June 11, housekeeping staff at BC Cancer – Victoria discovered water flooding from the third floor causing extensive damage to ambulatory care clinics including patient examination rooms, clinic team rooms, a waiting room as well as the patient and family counselling area, offices in the first, second and third floors and more. Thankfully, chemotherapy and radiation treatment areas were spared as were the PET/CT area and pharmacy.
Jordan Carrie, manager of centre services, was one of the first to arrive on Saturday morning to assess the damage. “It was much worse than I thought,” he recalls. “The damage was extensive. It was clear the flood would have an impact on operations at the centre.” His former training with HEMBC came in handy as he and other leaders had to determine what to do next.
“Muscle memory kicks in and you remember that every crisis is a series of smaller crises. Get the right people in the room, try to deal with one problem at a time and keep in mind you are one part of a really big organization.”
He and other leaders sat down to wrap their heads around what the impacts would be on Monday and how to mitigate them as entire departments had been damaged by water.
They activated the Emergency Fan Out system and also sent out a memo asking if any staff would be willing to come in on Sunday to help prepare the building for the opening of the centre on Monday with resumption of patient care services. “It was an overwhelming response of ‘yes’ when we asked people if they wanted to come in and help,” Jordan notes.
“They dropped everything – it was a full day event. Without everyone who came in to provide their expertise and support, we would not have had the success that we had. Everyone was so generous to give up their time to come and help.”
Sabrina Blondeau, a health unit clerk in the Systemic (Chemo) Therapy department recalls arriving to the centre on Sunday, with rubber boots in hand, not sure what to expect. “I stood outside with a group of coworkers waiting for management [to let us into the building], feeling sad thinking the inside of the centre might be destroyed beyond repair,” she recalls.
“The clerical team was feeling melancholy before we knew more the details of the flood. We were very worried for the patients and how their care was going to be impacted. I think we all really came together as a team and took care of it perfectly and I am proud of the work that we did.”
Although the water was turned off soon after the flooding was discovered, the damage had been done and very large areas of the ambulatory care clinics including many patient examination rooms were impacted. Holly Collicott, a patient care aide, reflected on the events of the day. “Everybody met and took direction from managers to disperse into different areas to set up for the next day. The teamwork that day was incredible and we got a lot done in a short period.” She adds,
“It was very humbling to see so many people take the time out of their weekend to come in and help. I was also very happy the care aides were included in the decisions because most of the flooded areas were clinic space where the doctors work out of, and clinic rooms that are critical to the operation of our building.”
Medical secretary, Alyssa Aliperti, spent the day on Sunday calling patients changing as many in-person visits to virtual as possible. She called patients who needed to be seen in person and explained the situation to them and how the operation of the building would be different when they arrived as a lot of the building was closed off with construction hoarding, access was restricted and huge ventilation tubes were strewn throughout the building for air flow. She helped them understand what to expect when they arrived for their in-person visit on Monday and in the coming months while the building would be restored. She adds,
“The flood happened one week after a car crashed into our building. Despite being short-staffed and having two major incidents within a week of each other, everyone’s commitment to safe and compassionate patient care is obvious. We have been able to adapt seamlessly to challenging circumstances and I am so proud to be part of the BC Cancer – Victoria team!”
One of the people who joined the efforts on Sunday was Cloe Vignola, a clinical nurse leader in the Radiation Therapy department. Sunday, June 12 happened to be her birthday and she had plans to celebrate with friends and family.
“I had a moment of hesitation - stay and set up for the party or let my husband do the preparations. Of course I responded to the call and was at the centre along with many of my colleagues on Sunday morning. It was heartwarming to see how many of my colleagues showed up on the weekend prepared to do whatever was necessary to be able to care for every patient as usual come Monday. I returned home early that afternoon with a lot of pride in what we had been able to accomplish for our patients.”
When she got home her husband had organized everything and her friends had already gathered to celebrate. “In hindsight I could not have asked for a better birthday,” she adds.
One of the patient partners on BC Cancer – Victoria’s patient experience committee said that her experience of getting treatment at BC Cancer – Victoria was like getting a warm hug. “I believe that even with the challenges of all the damage to [the] physical facility, the BC Cancer – Victoria family has continued to provide ‘warm hug care’”.
Thanks to every staff member who stepped up in the face of devastating damage on Sunday, June 12 to ensure patients continued to receive ‘warm hug care’ on Monday and for the months that have followed as remediation of the extensive flood damage continues.