Providence Hospital not too shaken by Friday quake

Published: Dec. 1, 2018 at 2:33 PM AKST
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With thousands of employees and hundreds of patients, one of the state's largest hospitals says that Friday's massive earthquake did not shake up its daily operations too much and that's mostly because of the way it's designed.

The Providence Alaska Medical Center's campus covers about two million square feet. Its oldest building dates back to the early 1960's.

Behind many walls are seismic joists, “so if there’s any damage or anything, you're going to physically see once you’re in a big event like what we just had, you're going to see this type of situation at the expansion joints where they come in and they're designed to move and rack,” said Don Long, director of facilities engineering, while looking at a series of cracks near a ceiling sprinkler.

In one of the hospital's most important spots, there are no operating tables, bedpans, or nurse's stations. Instead, it's an industrial stronghold fueled by diesel.

"We can actually steam our boiler plant and our diesel electric generators to provide power to both normal, life safety and critical equipment for two weeks," Long said. "It's basically like you're running on a public power system.”

The earthquake rattled many Alaskans and may have even contributed to some medical conditions.

“Our physicians in the emergency department indicated that some of the events that we treated yesterday could have been anxiety related, meaning people were so anxious or so stressed that they may have provoked a heart attack for themselves,” said Providence Alaska Medical Center CEO Ella Goss.

The hospital says it hasn't seen a significant amount of injuries directly tied to the earthquake yet. Goss said it’s more likely patients will come in as they begin assessing and attempting to clean up damage from the earthquake.

Goss says many hospital employees rolled with the quake and even switched gears when the aftershocks replaced the main event.

“They were handing out linens, they were bringing meal trays to patients," Goss said. "There were so many things the staff were doing that were not their usual jobs, and they were happy to do them.”

Alaska Regional Hospital, also located in Anchorage, confirms it will resume "normal operations" beginning Monday, according to Public Relations Director Kjerstin Lastufka. The medical center had limited its services to only emergency room care immediately following the quake. Lastufka encourages patients who may have an appointment with an individual physician located at the hospital campus to call the provider's office directly prior to the appointment in order to confirm the office has reopened.