BATAVIA — The Batavia VA Medical Center got through the Christmas Weekend blizzard by having the staff to do what was needed to keep everything going. The employees were able to continuing caring for the residents despite the storm going on outside for those two or three days, Dec. 23-25.
Dr. Marc Maller, chair of geriatrics and extended care, which involves facilities in Buffalo and Batavia, spoke to The Daily News Tuesday on behalf of the nursing staff at the Batavia facility, 222 Richmond Ave. It’s a long-term facility which operates 24 hours, seven days a week.
A few nurses stayed over at the facility during the weekend blizzard or part of it.
“The schedules are designed on a normal period of time, so that there’s coverage continually. Of course, there’s people, because of the storm, stranded, They were stranded in their own driveway. A few of them were stranded here,” Maller said. “The nurses that were stranded here really stepped up. I know of at least four or five nurses that were here for 48 hours straight, which is a long time to work. I know that one of the nurses here took it upon herself to arrange or pay for a room at one of the local hotels and let three or four of the nurses use the showers in between shifts, sleep a little bit, They stayed here. The residents who live here have to get medications. They have to be fed …”
Maller said the nurses who stayed for two or three days in a row stayed not because they had to, but because they wanted to do so.
Jo Ann Jacobi, food service system dietician, said the department’s approach is to have enough food for two weeks, in case of an emergency.
“When this happened, I was here on Friday morning (Dec. 23) and ended up staying until probably noonish on Christmas Day,” she said. “Luckily, most of the people in our department live in Batavia. Most of them were able to get in and out without much difficulty. Since we had the additional food on hand, we really didn’t have any problem. Our biggest problem was, neither one of our cooks was able to make it in, so we had to make do with the staff we had on hand as far as cooking and also serving the meals to all the residents.”
Travis Piatt, grounds supervisor at the facility, said Josh Finn, motor vehicle operator, set the tone for the response.
“Not only was he taking care of the stuff here on campus, he would be here. He would leave, go and do what he was doing, than go home, get a couple hours of sleep, then go out. He’s out saving lives with the rest of the police department.”
Finn, also a captain with the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, said he was working the weekend at the VAMC and planned to stay late.
“As things started progressing, I talked to Travis and realized that they have enough staff here. I decided that it would be in my best interest and in my community’s best interest for me to leave here,” Finn said. “I headed to Oakfield and was one of the guys there who was doing the convoy, the search, with my crew in Oakfield. I think I was finally able to get sleep and get back here Christmas Day to relieve these guys because the grounds crew) worked (at the VAMC) about 60 hours, all said and done — 60 hours plowing.”
Piatt said Finn kept him informed.
“We also had six other individuals here. They were here basically the whole time, from Friday. We knew the storm was coming,” Piatt said. “Everybody got some food.”
The VAMC Food Services staff fed everyone hot dogs on the night of Dec. 24, he said.
“We much greatly appreciate it,” he said. “There was six of us. We knew coming in … We knew the responsibility of taking this job, working with the police. They really help us out with everything — had the staff moved where we needed it to, provided a lot of assistance, guidance, stuff like that. We put in a lot of hours. This is not new for them. We made the roads really clear. We had to maintain this property … make sure emergency vehicles can get to not only our facility, but we help out with Havenwood (Havenwood Congregate Apartments, 240 Richmond Ave.). Basically my guys took it upon themselves to clear that area so emergency vehicles could make it to the Havenwood.”
Food Services in Batavia served 250 meals to staff and stranded visitors at the VA in Batavia during the blizzard.
“They did it while maintaining services to our admitted patients and providing them with a special holiday meal,” the VA said in a special edition of its DOSE newsletter. “Joann Jacobi and Dawn Dagastino worked tirelessly as they spent a few nights in Batavia holding down the fort during the storm. With the assistance of a few staff that were able to make it in to assist here and there, they kept patients and those stranded nourished.”
Batavia received some relief on Dec. 25, the newsletter said.