Intense rains triggered unprecedented flooding; anatomic pathology group continues lab testing services while helping staff members whose homes and vehicles were damaged
Clinical laboratory medicine is a community and this fact is being proven by the help now flowing to employees of an anatomic pathology laboratory who were catastrophically affected by the recent flooding in Louisiana, which was caused by an historic and unexpected rain event. The Red Cross called this the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy just four years ago.
At Pathology Group of Louisiana (PGL) in Baton Rouge, 31 of its employees (24% of the staff) have “sustained total loss of their homes and belongings,” stated Pika Sdrougias, PGL’s Chief Executive Officer. “The unprecedented floods took everything: their homes, personal possessions, even their cars are now a total loss.”
Disaster Preparedness Plan Keeps Clinical Laboratory Operating
Sdrougias is no stranger to the toll that natural disasters take on those affected. In 2005, while working as a Vice President at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie, La., she lost her house when Hurricane Katrina smashed into New Orleans.
According to Sdrougias, PGL managed to avoid interruption of pathology testing services during this recent disaster due to the company’s established Disaster Preparedness Plan. “A vital component of our plan is a telephone tree,” she explained. “Our employees know to contact their supervisor as soon as possible in the event of an emergency.”
It was that communications protocol that enabled PGL to keep pathology specimens moving when the rains started. “Before it was over, our courier manager was surrounded by water,” recalled Sdrougias. “She kept managing the courier activities at the same time she was trying to track down her two daughters. She finally learned, after seven hours, that her girls had been evacuated.
“One of our VPs, along with a couple of staffers, kept things moving in the histology laboratory and kept communications flowing round the clock,” continued Sdrougias. “She was embedding, cutting, and staining specimens to ensure that the work that had come in was completed. Our accountant immediately started keeping track of our employees and their status’—homes lost, cars lost, etc.”
If there is good news to the consequences of the storm, it’s that all the PGL pathologists, staff, and their families survived without physical injury or harm. However, the disruption to Louisianan lives has been overwhelming. “Our pathology laboratory was not damaged, nor were hospitals in the region,” emphasized Sdrougias. “People still have access to healthcare, and that is important to PGL, because it allows our staff to continue working to earn the money they need to deal with their losses.”
Laboratory Staff Support Each Other While Continuing to Work
In fact, PGL’s Disaster Preparedness Plan has an often-overlooked but critical component that has become very significant. “Our staff members who have not experienced flood damage are helping those who have in little, but important ways,” she noted. “For example, they are doing the laundry of the families who have lost their homes. It is simple arrangements like those that make a big difference and allows these staffers to continue working while caring for their families.”
The flooding event caught everyone by surprise. “The difference with this storm,” Sdrougias pointed out, “is that, unlike warnings about the estimated arrival of a hurricane, there was no advance notice or lead time to prepare. There was also no precedent for the areas around Baton Rouge and Southeast Louisiana that experienced severe flooding for the first time ever.”
PGL Vendors Raise Donations to Help Laboratory Staff
In the wake of this disaster, some of PGL’s vendors (laboratory information system provider LigoLab, for example) reached out to PGL with donations and offers of assistance. Several other lab vendors (who asked to remain anonymous) also are providing assistance to PGL and their employees who were affected by the flood.
Due to the magnitude of the losses suffered by its employees, PGL also launched a national campaign to secure donations to help their 31 employees and families. There are several ways people and companies can help the PGL staff and their families recover. PGL has organized a GoFundMe campaign with a $50,000 goal. Anyone interested in helping can use this link: (or copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://www.gofundme.com/2k5gsw4). Another way is to contact PGL’s office to learn what is most needed.
“This is a grass-roots effort to help people who have lost everything,” stated Sdrougias. “Success depends on reaching as many people as possible in the laboratory medicine community. That includes colleagues, medical school and pathology residency program contacts, professional affiliates, associations like CAP and APF, friends, family, Facebook friends and other social media contacts—everyone!
“Disaster recovery is an ongoing effort. We are asking anyone who can to help get the word out through their professional and personal networks and, very importantly, to ask each of them to forward on to as many people as they can.”
–Pamela Scherer McLeod