Weathering the Storms

Bird's eye view of the eye of a hurricane

Born during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund continues to serve

A decade after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, survivors and those who assisted them are sharing stories of strength and resilience. For many in HCA Healthcare’s senior leadership, the days and weeks following the disaster showed just how strong the bond is between all HCA Healthcare employees as thousands reached out to help their evacuated and often homeless counterparts.

For Jack Bovender, former chairman and CEO of HCA Healthcare, Katrina and its aftermath are a “defining moment” for HCA Healthcare, when the company did anything and everything it had to do in order to get patients and staff out of harm’s way and to safety. Whatever was needed, whatever it took, he says, it was done.

“I was so proud of what we did, and how we came together to make a difference in that horrible situation,” Bovender says. “Everything HCA Healthcare did after Katrina showed who we were, and what we were. The Hope Fund was the crown on top of that defining moment. And now it’s there for a lot of people if there’s an earthquake, tornado or hurricane. And it’s also there for the one person who has a life-changing event and needs some help. That really shows the kind of company that HCA Healthcare is.”

Within hours of Katrina’s landfall, conversations began that would lead to the Hope Fund’s creation. On the ground, Mel Lagarde, then president of the Delta division and now president of the MidAmerica division, had remained at Tulane Medical Center in order to help the physicians and staff there deal with an influx of patients from other hospitals in the area, as well as others who had been rendered homeless by the storm. He was in constant communication with Bovender, as well as Sam Hazen, then president of HCA Healthcare’s Western Group and now president of operations, and former chairman Richard Bracken, who then was president and chief operating officer of HCA Healthcare.

At the same time, the corporate offices in Nashville were flooded with inquiries from hospitals and other facilities nationwide. Because of Hurricane Charley just a few weeks earlier, the leadership team’s inboxes were already overflowing with emails from HCA Healthcare employees nationwide who wanted to help. There was no official mechanism for employees to donate, and so that convergence of need and willingness to help would soon give birth to the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund.

As the Hope Fund was being formed, HCA Healthcare swung into action in many other ways in the hours, days and weeks following Katrina. From evacuating patients and employees from Tulane Medical Center, the nearby Charity Hospital and other non-HCA Healthcare facilities, to providing food, water and medical supplies, HCA Healthcare devoted resources and compassion to the disaster area. The newly created Hope Fund received its tax-exempt number within two weeks of filing with the federal government, and it quickly joined the relief efforts.

“HCA Healthcare as a company has always taken care of its employees, and the employees have always rallied around each other,” says Joanne Pulles, president of the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund. “While it was best known in the early years for large-scale disaster assistance, it is now recognized for providing personalized help and support in a variety of crisis situations facing our employees and their families. If someone has a home fire, for example, or a major illness, the Hope Fund steps in and offer support. Someone at Charleston’s Trident Medical Center can donate a small amount every pay period, and that helps someone working at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose. People want to help, and the Hope Fund enables them to do so every day.”

“HCA Healthcare has always taken care of its own, something our employees really take to heart.” — Jack Bovender

HCA Healthcare, The Hope Fund and Hurricane Katrina

Headshot of Jack Bovender

In the days following Hurricane Katrina, former HCA Healthcare chairman and CEO Jack Bovender sent out daily emails to the entire company. In addition to keeping everyone updated on rescue and repair efforts, he also highlighted the work of the new Hope Fund:

  • More than $1.5 million was granted to 768 employees to meet immediate living expense needs
  • St. David’s Foundation partner in Austin and the Methodist Foundation in San Antonio each contributed $250,000 (in addition to HCA Healthcare’s own $4 million contribution)
  • $344,000 was contributed from HCA Healthcare employees

Almetra Finley, PBX Operator Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, Las Vega

Major surgery dealt Almetra Finley some adversity last year, but as she worked to get back on her feet physically and financially, she received another blow.

“My 31-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a complex, inoperable brain tumor,” says Finley, who is a PBX operator at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. “This required me to make several trips back and forth to UCLA Medical Center so I could be at her bedside.”
The plan of care included multiple, daily radiation treatments, as well as arranging for follow-up care, because the aggressive medical approach meant the loss of sight in one eye, as well as some other ongoing physical aftereffects.

Woman sitting at piano

“Last year was a trying time for my family,” Finley says. “We got through my surgery, and her treatments, and have just been taking it one day at a time. But it all took a toll, and I really faced some financial hardships.”

She was aware of the Hope Fund, as it had been discussed during her new employee orientation, and she was contributing via payroll deduction, but didn’t think about utilizing the fund until a supervisor reminded her of the possible assistance. The Hope Fund came through, and the assistance was everything she had hoped for and more.

“My resources were exhausted, and housing costs in Los Angeles are ridiculously high,” she says. “I truly did not know how I would manage it, and with the Hope Fund’s help everything worked out really well. I am truly grateful for the assistance, and really can’t thank the Hope Fund’s donors enough.”

HCA Healthcare is a remarkable place to work for many reasons, she adds, and the Hope Fund is just icing on the cake.

“Had I been with another company, I have no idea if I would have been able to get this kind of assistance,” she says.

Jennifer Schade, Medical Office Specialist Northern Utah Cardiovascular

Man sitting in wheelchair with woman and five children standing around him

When Joshua Schade took a job closer to home in 2014, it was good news to wife Jennifer and their five sons. He would be on the road less, and even though the freight he was hauling was dangerous, he wasn’t too worried.

“He hauled sulphuric acid, which is pretty nasty stuff, but he wore full protective gear when he had to unload it using a pressurized hose,” says Jennifer Schade, a medical office specialist at Northern Utah Cardiovascular, part of HCA Healthcare’s Physician Services Group. “But there was an explosion, and the acid melted right through the clothing. He was covered head to toe.”

Joshua suffered third-degree burns over 70 percent of his body, and spent six weeks in a coma. He has undergone 14 surgeries to date, including skin grafts and other procedures to re-cover his body literally inch by inch.

“The process is really long, because he would do well with physical therapy in between the surgeries, and then another operation would slow him down again,” Schade says. “The doctors are thinking that soon he can go to rehab, so that he can continue to re-learn how to walk, and feed himself. He has to really start over with everything. It’s been a long road, but he’s a fighter.”

The Schades had just built a new home in August 2014, and so they had little savings to fall back on when Joshua’s accident happened. Jennifer was able to take time off through the Family Medical Leave Act, but the bills quickly began to pile up. She wasn’t familiar with the Hope Fund, but when she heard about it she was eager to learn more.

“With neither of us working, what money we had set aside went really fast,” she says. “I spoke with someone in our office who told me about the Hope Fund. I was still in shock, because it was soon after the accident and I didn’t know if he was going to live or die, and I was trying to keep things together for our five boys.”

Jennifer’s call to the Hope Fund made a world of difference.

“When I saw that deposit, I just broke down,” Schade says. “Right before his accident, Joshua had been saying that we needed to get our savings built back up. Without this help, we would have lost our house. Things are still scary, but I’ve been able to focus on caring for my boys and my husband. The Hope Fund has been an absolute blessing to our family.”

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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