Day Kimball Hospital announced today that an administrative review of the hospital’s response to an unexpected public water supply issue on November 15 has shown that staff acted swiftly, efficiently and effectively to ensure high quality patient care and safety in the midst of an emergency. The hospital was left with unreliable water pressure and quality on the afternoon of November 15 as a result of efforts by the Town of Putnam to locate a water main leak affecting traffic on Pomfret Street not far from the hospital.
“We review the effectiveness of our response any time we encounter an emergency or unusual situation that could affect patient care or safety and we’re very pleased with the quick and organized response of our staff to the water main issue last month. Our staff followed established emergency protocol and acted swiftly in the interest of our patients. Those actions meant that the care and comfort of our inpatients remained unaffected and that surgery was able to resume with the utmost assurance of safety less than 48 hours after the incident occurred,” said Day Kimball Healthcare President and CEO Joseph Adiletta.
While the hospital does have a plan in place to prevent interruption of the water supply during planned water main repairs, DKH Director of Facilities Greg Harubin explained that in this case, though the loss of pressure was only momentary the greater problem was the particulate-laden water that came into the system due to the disturbance of the water mains.
“We do have the ability to shut down connection to either of the two water mains serving the hospital should the need arise for repairs or flushing of one of the lines. In this situation the water quality was affected to a degree significantly greater than expected, so we initiated our emergency water plan,” Harubin said.
That plan included distribution of regular and sterile bottled water along with self-contained portable sink units throughout the hospital, from a stockpile that’s kept on-hand for emergencies such as this. Tanker trucks with potable water were also called in. In addition, all scheduled surgical procedures and endoscopies were cancelled through the following day to ensure that surgical tools could be safely sterilized. Patients coming to the hospital’s Emergency Department who required surgery were also rerouted to other nearby hospitals for surgical care during this time.
“Ensuring the safest, highest-quality care possible is our single most important responsibility to our patients. Reliable, consistent water pressure and clarity is essential for the proper operation of surgical sterilizing machines and we couldn’t be assured of either of those things during this incident,” said DKH Chief Medical Officer and Vice President for Medical Affairs and Quality Dr. John Graham.
Dr. Graham continued, “Given that information, we acted in the best interest of our patients and halted all surgical procedures until we were assured by the water department that the water pressure and quality was back to normal, and until our sterilizing equipment was inspected to ensure that it contained no particulates that may have been stirred up during the water main flushing and repairs.”
Dr. Graham said that process was completed by the end of the day on November 17, the day after the water main issue, and that the CT Department of Public Health and an infectious disease specialist were consulted for review and approval prior to surgery being resumed at the hospital.
DKH Safety Manager Robert Andrews, who is tasked with compiling reports evaluating the hospital’s response to emergency situations, noted that not only was hospital staff’s response at the time of the incident effective but evaluation and discussion of the situation after the fact has also resulted in improvements to be better prepared in the case of a similar situation in the future.
“This was a successful emergency response. Our clinical staff made sure that the care of our patients was unaffected and our facilities staff worked around the clock to flush our entire system and get everything back up and running. We’ve since added additional filters to our water supply lines that feed equipment in our sterile processing department so that a similar event would be less likely to impact our surgical capabilities in the future,” Andrews said.