MHA Coordinates Nurse Airlift to Houston

On Tuesday, MHA President & CEO Lynn Nicholas, FACHE, took a phone call from an old colleague – Steve Jones, Jr., the CEO of Bay Area Regional Medical Center (BARMC) in Webster, Texas, just outside of Houston. Jones’ hospital was being hammered by Hurricane Harvey, and BARMC’s staff members, many of who had lost their houses to the floodwaters, fought exhaustion to stay on the job and deal with a spike in ED visits while being told to anticipate more admissions due to the closure of numerous area hospitals.

Jones told Nicholas he needed nurses and he needed them quickly.

By day’s end, after MHA had sent out a call to its membership assisted by the Organization of Nurse Leaders of MA, RI, NH & CT, Massachusetts nurses began to line up to travel to Houston. More than 80 nurses ultimately answered the call and on Tuesday, September 5, a plane chartered by BARMC will transport the first wave of Bay State nurses from Boston to Texas.

MHA coordinated the effort with the approval of the Texas Catastrophic Medical Operations Center (CMOC) whose approved disaster recovery plan calls for hospitals, if they are able, to arrange their own relief efforts. After vetting his plan with CMOC, CEO Jones then called Nicholas and her colleague at the New Jersey Hospital Association, which also assembled a contingent of volunteer nurses to fly to Houston; the New Jersey nurses deployed Thursday.

A combination of so-called “Good Samaritan” laws as well as emergency declarations from Washington and the Texas Governor’s office cut through the usual red tape governing cross-state licensing and credentialing, and malpractice concerns. BARMC is providing the transportation, lodging, and food for the volunteer nurses, most of whom will spend at least a week in Houston.

“Texas turned to MHA and Massachusetts for desperately needed assistance and we were able to quickly assemble a relief team of profoundly dedicated nurses,” said MHA’s Nicholas. “I couldn’t be prouder of the Massachusetts response, of our skilled and caring nurses, and of the Massachusetts hospitals that are ensuring that care at home is not affected adversely as our state’s nurses travel to help those in need.”

BARMC will arrange transportation home for the Massachusetts nurses either through another charter or through commercial flights. And a second group of Massachusetts nurses is standing ready if more help is needed.

“We’re not entirely sure of the transportation departure details – nor are the nurses who volunteered,”  Nicholas said. “We have a call with the folks in Texas Saturday to flesh that out, but I could not be prouder of the quick planning our team at MHA has done and the incredible response from the nursing community.”