U volunteers help flood victims get home

Patients evacuated during the flood return home, but might have to flee again.

Organization, training and countless volunteer hours allowed hundreds of hospital and nursing home patients who had been evacuated from the Fargo-Moorhead area because of the Red River flood to start heading home Friday. The patients had been distributed among care facilities across the state starting March 26. The University of Minnesota sent two nurses and an EMT to Brainerd to help. While there, they cared for 30 nursing home residents who were relocated from Eventide Senior Living Communities in Moorhead . Jon Riewer, the president and CEO of Eventide said all of his residents were due back in Moorhead on Sunday afternoon. Although, they are potentially facing another evacuation if the river crests again in a couple of weeks, Eventide wanted to bring everyone back to give residents, staff and families a break. In the event of another evacuation, University volunteers could again be called upon. Scott Harpin, a registered nurse, and Ph.D. candidate, was the UniversityâÄôs team leader, and said volunteer operations ran smoothly. When the UniversityâÄôs volunteers arrived March 29, they relieved nursing volunteers from the Brainerd area. And although they were prepared to stay longer, they left when staff from Eventide arrived March 31. Dale Benson, vice president of Brainerd Lakes Health , said the team appeared to have had a lot of training, because when they came everyone was prepared and knew their role. âÄúIt went like clockwork, almost,âÄù he said. Harpin said there isnâÄôt much specific training for dealing with disasters and volunteers are assigned according to their specialties. Because of the strength of their training and education, the nurses were able to be flexible, he said. Planning the evacuation started much earlier in the week, Benson said. St. JosephâÄôs was contacted on March 23 to see how many beds were available. After the decision was made to evacuate, the hospital in Brainerd had several hours of lead time before nursing home residents arrived late March 26. Two other groups of University faculty and staff volunteers were on call for more than a week, ready to respond if the dikes had broken and their services were needed, the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Medical Reserve Corps coordinator, Kathy Berlin said. âÄúThere were shelters all set up, just waiting for us to come if need be, but they didnâÄôt need to be staffed,âÄù Berlin said. The leaders who organized the evacuation efforts need to be commended for their efforts too, Harpin said. They do three times as much work as any of the frontline volunteers, and donâÄôt get the satisfaction of seeing the people theyâÄôre helping, he said.