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OVAHCS Staff Demonstrate what it Takes to be an HRO

OVAHCS staff work through the night during Hurricane Nicole to ensure Veterans are cared for during the storm.
OVAHCS staff work through the night during Hurricane Nicole to ensure Veterans are cared for during the storm.

Staff at the Orlando VA Health Care System (OVAHCS) have once again stepped up to the plate to care for America’s heroes while a hurricane brought on severe weather to the entire OVAHCS catchment area. Hurricane Nicole is the second named storm to hit central Florida this fall.

The rare November hurricane made landfall south of Vero Beach on Thursday, November 10, 2022, as a category 1 storm.

In late September Hurricane Ian, a category 4 storm, challenged the healthcare system with facility damages and disruptions to clinic operations. However, best practices and suggestions for improvements were identified, and made a big difference in the outcome of Hurricane Nicole.

OVAHCS Director, Timothy J. Cooke explains that staff being Veteran centric and dedicated to the OVAHCS mission is what continues to drive the organization towards success.

“Our staff’s dedication to ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of Veterans at a time like this is no surprise to me,” said Cooke. “The Veteran is at the center of everything we do, and this is evident in the resilience and commitment of our workforce.

Jeffrey Birdsong, OVAHCS Acting Assistant Director and Incident Command Operations Chief explains that staff continuously ask themselves what is in the best interest of the Veteran and put HRO principals to the test, especially when faced with challenging circumstances.

“The circumstances during any emergency situation can lead to complex opportunities for system-wide failure,” said Birdsong. “Our commitment to resilience and preoccupation with failure have helped make us stronger, this go-around.”

Cooke explains that these two HRO principals have been imperative to rebounding after Nicole.

“When we look at our preoccupation with failure, we better understand how things could fail and we are very fortunate to have made it out of the storm basically, unscathed,” said Cooke. Our commitment to resilience and our ability to make improvements before the unexpected has occurred is no doubt due to the triumphant efforts of everyone who has rode out the storms with us.”

The OVAHCS journey to becoming a high reliability organization has been an ongoing process and continues to build on the great strides accomplished on behalf of Veterans. All OVAHCS facilities returned to normal operations soon after the storm passed.  

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