Forks Hospital Rises to Occasion

by Jim Casey

FORKS — Forks Community Hospital lived up to its middle name again during this week’s snowstorm and the power outages it caused. A 17-bed acute-care facility, the hospital turns itself into an emergency kitchen, shelter or both when weather attacks the town.

After snow felled power lines and the town of about 5,000 people went dark, “we had to set up a little emergency shelter in our ambulance building,” said hospital administrator Camille Scott. More than a dozen residents showed up at the facility Tuesday night before power was restored and they could go home, she said.

In the meantime, hospital staff called or visited new mothers and their infants and people whose health might be at risk from the cold and darkness.

Community canteen

“Naturally, people came and ate,” Scott said, as the hospital repeated its unofficial role as community canteen. When high winds darkened the town about two weeks earlier, the hospital dietary department served more than 2,000 meals to Forks folks who showed up expecting to be fed.

The hospital has no official obligation to feed or shelter people, Scott said. It just does it.

Without a Red Cross chapter or a big-city homeless shelter, the hospital turned to the state Department of Natural Resources. DNR responded with cots and sleeping bags it had stockpiled for fire crews.

“The weather put a hardship on the town,” Scott said, “but not the kind of hardship that causes negativity. It just causes growth.”

New surgical unit

And no sooner had the crisis passed than the hospital dedicated its new $1.9 million, 4,500-square-foot surgical unit. About a hundred people braved the elements to attend the ceremony, Scott said.

“During that lousy weather, in they came,” Scott said.

Meanwhile, the hospital attended to several people who’d slipped and fallen on icy pavement or who had suffered cardiac problems, possibly from shoveling snow or perhaps from the stress of repeated power outages.

“That’s why I love rural health care,” said Scott, who said she’d turned down offers of administrative jobs at higher-paying urban hospitals. “You can really feel that you can give in a rural community,” she said, “because you’re looking at your neighbor eye to eye.”

Source: Peninsula Daily News, Issue 288