Responding at a moment's notice to fire evacuees

Expect 14 new continuing care residents before sunrise.

This is the information Wanda Essery, one of three resident care managers at the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre, received as she left the facility at 1 a.m. Wednesday after an intense shift.

Wanda was notified just a few hours prior to the imminent arrival of Fort McMurray Northern Lights Regional Health Centre evacuees fleeing the ongoing forest fires threatening the northern community. Wanda was asked to co-ordinate the arrival.

With no information on the residents, their condition or their arrival time, Wanda and the Edmonton General staff faced a daunting challenge. 

“In those situations, you expect chaos, but people were actually really calm around here and things went exceptionally smooth,” says Wanda. “Extra staff members were brought in just in case and we were ready by 2 a.m.”

The first patients arrived around 10 a.m. Marilou Alquero, Manager of unit 7AB, welcomed four patients. “The evacuees were exhausted, some of them confused, emotional and in a lot of physical discomfort,” says Marilou. “All they wanted to do was eat, drink and rest.”

The staff went above and beyond for the newcomers, giving them toiletries, clothes and shoes. “We will treat them like our own residents, ensuring they feel at home. Making them comfortable is our priority,” says Danielle Segall, Program Manager.

By Wednesday evening, the new residents were settled, but Danielle expects there will be challenges ahead. “The evacuees are really tired right now; the reality will sink in in the days ahead. To make sure the Edmonton General meets its new residents’ physical and emotional needs, staffing will be increased and spiritual care will be made available for whoever needs support.”

Being able to successfully admit 14 Fort McMurray residents in one day does not come as a surprise to Wanda, who has been with Covenant Health for over 45 years. 

“I have experienced many, many crises over the years, and Covenant Health always steps up to the plate,” says Danielle. “Today was no exception. As always, our staff were more than willing to help, and I am proud to work for such a wonderful organization.”

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