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UHS employees praised for generosity to hurricane hospitals' staff 

November 13, 2017

UHS employees collected $33,749.11 for hospital workers in Texas and Florida who were adversely affected by hurricanes and flooding this year.

UHS split the amount equally between the Harris Health System in Houston, where Hurricane Harvey did much damage starting Aug. 17, and Baptist Health in South Florida, which was slammed by Hurricane Irma beginning Aug. 30.

The Texas and Florida employees, some of whom lost everything in the storms, have sent thank-you letters to UHS, expressing gratitude for the generous and supportive way UHS and its workforce came to their aid.

“The letter that your CEO sent with the check was probably the most heartfelt letter we have received,” said Kelli Fondren, vice president for Development at Harris Health, in a memo to UHS. “Little did we know as we braced for Harvey that UHS in New York could see what was coming and jumped into action to ‘pay it forward.’”

She continued: “Your financial assistance is truly a blessing and we are so very grateful . . . thank you also for your empathy, encouragement and support at one of our most difficult and trying times.”

An earlier thank-you letter to UHS described the hardships faced by the Harris Health team as they struggled to keep hospital doors open and provide patient care, all the time dealing with personal challenges.

“At last count we have 433 employees from across our system who have requested financial assistance,” said Jennifer Buck, manager of Community Involvement at Harris Health, in a letter to Matthew J. Salanger, president and chief executive officer of UHS. “Of those, approximately 70 have lost everything – homes, furnishings, cars and clothes - and many more . . . have extensive damage and loss as well. Your gift gives them hope.”

Laura Denoux, director of Development, Corporate Philanthropy and Sponsorships at the Baptist Health South Florida Foundation, noted: "We are abundantly grateful to you.  Many of those impacted by the storm were our own employees. We know far too many have a long road ahead as they work to recover, repair their homes and businesses, and ultimately resume their normal lives."

UHS leaders sent letters along with the checks to the Texas and Florida hospitals, expressing UHS' encouragement and good wishes for recovery.

John Carrigg, president and chief executive officer of UHS Hospitals, in a letter to Harris Health, noted: “The members of the UHS team have been with you in spirit, ever since Hurricane Harvey became an issue. We have some similar experience along these lines and know what a boost it can be to receive a bit of financial support for staff members as they seek to recover.”

Mr. Carrigg was referring to the 2006 and 2011 floods in the Southern Tier, during which thousands in the community, including hospital workers, experienced property loss of one degree or another.

“Words cannot express how sorry we are for all you and your team have gone through,” Mr. Carrigg said. “We feel that it's our turn to offer assistance, thoughts and prayers.”

Ms. Buck commented: “Through it all, our staff at Harris Health have been amazing. As you know, they are first and foremost committed to giving excellent care to our patients and have continued to do so, despite personal losses.”

Mr. Carrigg agreed, noting that hospital workers often toil under stress and endure personal hardship to provide consistent patient care during natural disasters.

“Healthcare professionals seem to possess that special something that keeps them on the job, dedicated to patient-centered care and devoted to maintaining quality service to others, in spite of the odds against them and the personal sacrifices they are sometimes required to make,” he said.

Ms. Fondren said Harris Health and its workforce will always feel a strong connection to their friends in Greater Binghamton.

“We are definitely Team UHS,” she said. “We stand ready to support UHS if ever needed.”