Jersey Strong: Reflections on the Healthcare Community’s Response to Sandy

NJHA was recently honored to have Gov. Christie speak at the NJHA Annual Meeting, attended by hospital and healthcare leaders from across the state. And we were especially honored to hear his message of praise and appreciation for New Jersey’s healthcare community for its service during Superstorm Sandy.

“In the end, it was all of you, with all the difficult health issues that presented… that helped the people of New Jersey get through it,” Gov. Christie told NJHA members. “I thank you on behalf of the people of our state.”

Three months after the storm struck our state, I think we’re all engaging in a period of reflection. The recovery phase will continue for quite a while, but we can at least begin to examine what went right and what went wrong during our collective response to Sandy. Gov. Christie shared some of what went right: Despite two hospitals and 11 long term care facilities evacuating during the storm, and 137 healthcare facilities that lost power, patients continued to receive the care they needed. That’s testament to the dedication and commitment of New Jersey’s healthcare professionals, some of whom slept at their workplaces or literally swam, paddled or waded through flood waters to reach their patients.

“Those are the kind of people that you have in your organizations – people who put their own self interests totally aside,” said the Governor.

For New Jersey, 2012 was an amazing display of resiliency. Thousands of New Jerseyans – many our own healthcare employees – lost their homes or their family belongings. Some lost their livelihoods. I’m sure all of us lost some special Jersey places that helped shape us. But we kept our resolve, and we truly remained Jersey Strong.

I’m a proud New Jersey native, born and raised in Roebling, famous for our steel mill and as the birthplace of John Roebling, designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. But what many people may not know is that John Roebling was seriously injured during an accident at the bridge construction site, developed tetanus and died. His son Washington, also an engineer, was left to lead the bridge’s construction. But Washington himself became a virtual invalid after suffering a severe case of the bends going up and down the underwater caissons of the bridge. And while he remained confined to his sickbed, the half-finished bridge ran the risk of becoming a political and financial albatross. What kept the project on track? Emily Roebling – Washington’s wife – who despite no formal training in engineering became a strong and assertive conduit for her husband and helped complete the engineering feat that is the Brooklyn Bridge.

Thanks to the Roeblings, the story of the Brooklyn Bridge has a distinctly Jersey accent – one that shows real teamwork, the strength of family, determination and tenacity. The same strengths that keep our state – and our healthcare community – strong in the face of natural disasters or any other challenges that come our way. 

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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