Extended Care Staff Says Teamwork Helped Nursing Home Weather The (Historic) Storm

The patio at Extended Care was blanketed with snow from a historic storm that dumped 28.1 inches of snow in Newark.
The patio at Extended Care was blanketed with snow from a historic storm that dumped 28.1 inches of snow in Newark.

On Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, most of Newark was quietly huddled indoors as record-breaking amounts of snow fell in the city and also blanketed the rest of New Jersey with significant amounts of snowfall.

In the midst of storm, New Community Extended Care Facility was a hub of activity.

Despite the historic accumulation of 28.1 inches of snow in Newark, according to the National Weather Service and the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network, NCC staff from multiple departments banded together to keep the 24-hour skilled nursing facility adequately staffed, safely operating and cleared of snow, Facility Administrator Robert Smolin said.

Gwendolyn Robinson, a dietary aide, was one of many residents who worked the weekend by trudging through the snow, on foot, to show up to work. “Somebody’s got to feed the residents,” she said.

For nursing staff who were unable to travel on their own to the 180-bed capacity nursing home, the New Community Security Task Force drove to employee’s homes to give rides. Ramon Acosta, director of Housekeeping at Extended Care, also transported staff who were snowed in. “Don’t call out. I’m picking you up,” Acosta said he told his staff over the phone.

Ann Hope, employee health officer, played quarterback and deftly coordinated pick-ups in conjunction with the Task Force and kept the staffing at an average of 46 employees throughout the weekend. “They really worked well with us,” Hope said. “We’ve been through different storms…but this was the easiest one because of the team effort.”

Environmental Services also played a key role in clearing the snow so that vehicles of staff and EMS could reach the nursing home. A spirit of camaraderie prevailed, with many instances of colleagues helping each other, such as Food Service Director Jackie Henry preparing three meals a day for staff working beyond their normal shifts.

In addition to the Task Force and Environmental Services, Director of Nursing Veronica Onwunaka lauded each department of Extended Care, including Activities, Dietary, Housekeeping, Laundry, Maintenance and Nursing.

“The staff responded very well,” Onwunaka said. “I cannot say thank you enough.”

Samuel Gaddy, assistant instructor of the Culinary Arts Specialist Program, said he felt a sense of purpose showing up on Sunday in the aftermath of the storm. “I was happy to do it,” he said.

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