When the worst typhoon in history devastated the Philippines last November, UCLA nurse Joanne Contreras e-mailed Dr, David Feinberg, president of the UCLA Health System and CEO of the UCLA Hospital System, asking if the health care system was planning a response.
Feinberg responded in two hours and connected her with Mark A. Speare, chief human resources and organization development officer. He put Contreras in touch with Emily Chua, a nurse on UCLA’s CareConnect team, who was also trying to organize relief efforts with several colleagues, including application managers Dennis Garcia and Czarina Ofalla and nurse informaticist Cromwell Suarez.
UCLA employees Dennis Garcia (from the left), Emily Chua, Cromwell Suarez, Manny Punzalan, Michael Baca and Joanne Contrera organized relief efforts to help typhoon victims.
Speare scheduled a series of meetings that included Chua, Garcia, Suarez and others to discuss how UCLA could leverage its resources to provide short- and long-term help to victims of the natural disaster that killed more than 6,000 people.
Michael Baca, director of materials management, championed immediate needs. He identified 16 pallets of warehoused provisions, including surgical gloves, medical supplies and blankets, that could be sent to the Philippines. Materials management also organized a fundraiser/food drive to benefit the Red Cross. They collected $1,001 and four pallets of food, formula, toys and toiletries for typhoon victims.
By Dec. 6, UCLA had sent 20 pallets of supplies — weighing approximately 1,000 pounds — to the archipelago’s hardest-hit areas. After arriving there, it took two truckloads to get the donations to their final destination, the Red Cross in the Philippines.
But it didn't end there. UCLA’s long-term plans are as impressive as its short-term response.
The health system’s decision to fund the flight, accommodations and two weeks of full pay to enable an employee to participate in a nursing group’s relief efforts "breaks new ground," according to a press release by National Nurses United.
Villagers in an area that was hard hit by Typhoon Haiyan pool their resources.
UCLA is also moving forward on plans to partner with an organization in the Philippines that is devoted to helping survivors with ongoing health needs for everything from wound care and infection control to vaccinations, mental health services and prenatal care.
"The disaster victims have nowhere else to go, and helping is the right thing to do morally and ethically," Chua said. "We live such a privileged life here and are lucky to the point of overabundance. This is all about paying it forward."
"We are a group of concerned individuals who all want to help and make a difference for these people back home," Garcia added. "Creating a long-term plan that creates a long-lasting relationship with an entity in the Philippines truly embodies the mission of UCLA to heal humankind, one patient at a time."
This was adapted from a story in UCLA Health Employee News.