New Facility Helped Medical Staff Treat Tornado Victims

The McKenzie County Healthcare Systems medical facility opened in Watford City on July 1st. Just a week and a half later, the new facility and its medical staff would be put to the test with a barrage of patients from a tornado.

“When I approached here, there was lots of vehicles, lots of sirens, lots of lights, and basically chaos,” says Cheryl Faulkner, director of nursing. 


Chaos is how Faulkner described the scene at the McKenzie County hospital on Tuesday morning. 26 tornado victims were treated at the hospital in the early morning hours. Many came to the hospital without shoes and wearing ripped clothing.


“Everybody had lost everything. All they had were the clothes they had on and they had nothing else. How devastating,” says Faulkner. 


The damage to property and the physical injuries the tornado caused were overwhelming. But the new, larger facility, opened just this month, enabled staff to treat patients faster.


“We had approximately 26 individuals present for treatment, almost all at the same time. This would have been difficult, almost impossible in the old facility,” says Michael Curtis, chief administrative officer. 


Traditional computer systems were too slow for the onslaught of patients at the hospital. So staff used Sharpie markers to write numbers on each patient so they could be triaged and treated faster.


“For us, it’s a tragedy any way you cut it. But for it to happen at the very least after we got into the building, it made it far more smooth. And it really announced the care we were able to give to people,” says Curtis. 


“It takes a whole team, and that whole team responded,” says Faulkner. 


To help patients recover, as the community continues its own healing process after the storm.


There are fundraisers going on this weekend to help tornado victims. The Arnegard Lions Club will be hosting a free will donation at Nelson Park July 13th from 6pm to 8pm. And a fund to assist those affected has also been set up at Cornerstone Bank in Watford City. 

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