By TIM HORAN
Last weekend the Lifeline system that monitors over 170 users in the Abilene area went down, causing an interruption in the service.
Carol Whitehair, director of Home Health and Hospice for Memorial Health System which runs the program, gave a report to the MHS board at its regular meeting Tuesday. She explained what happened and why the call center is being changed to a Massachusetts location.
Lifeline is a system where a person wears a button either on the wrist or around the neck. In the case of an emergency such as a fall, the button can be pressed, sending a call to the call center.
If the person wearing the button is unable to respond, the call center will send a 911 call to local law enforcement. Lifeline provides the service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That is until last Friday, when the whole system went down.
“We had 170 some people with Lifelines who, if they had pushed their buttons, no one would have answered,” Whitehair said. “Even worse, it tied up their phone line with (a message): ‘Call service in progress. Please wait.’ It said that over and over with multiple calls all night long Friday night.
“Saturday we started getting calls. ‘Make it shut up.’ We ended up calling all of our clients, family members or case managers, whoever,” she added. “We reached someone for everyone. About the time they finished those calls, we got a call back saying everything was working. So they recalled everybody. Sunday morning we got the call that it is was down again.
“Everybody was pointing fingers at everybody else and no one was giving us answers. So we again started the process of having two people contact the 170-some people. We got them all called and we got a call about six o’clock Sunday night saying it was back on again. They hadn’t pinpointed the problem, just that it was back on.
“We basically told everyone that until we let you know, the system is down. Please check on your family members,” she added. “People were so kind. About the third (call) time, they knew us by voice.”
For that reason and others, starting April 1, the Lifeline call center will be in Framingham, Mass., with a guarantee that the caller from Kansas would be able to understand the operator.
The call center had been in Concordia.
“This was not an easy decision,” Whitehair said. “I have always been stubborn about wanting calls answered in Kansas where they know if there is an ice storm or a tornado, where they know what is going on. At Concordia, if something was going on, they would call me at home.
“They would find me. We are not going to get that from Massachusetts but we are guaranteed that the calls will be answered. There is a backup system in place. They have servers in two separate buildings. Also, if you can’t understand a person, they have guaranteed they will get someone else on the line,” she said.
Home Health also received 99 free upgraded units, about $50,000 in equipment. It also allows for new technology, she said.
“It’s going to cost a little more ($7.50 a month) but it is a button that if you fall down, it automatically calls for you,” Whitehair said. “You don’t have to push a button.”
“This is a wonderful community service,” Whitehair said of Lifeline. “I think it is one of the nicest things we do as a department for our community. We started out in 1989 charging $28 and here we are in 2013 only charging $35 a month.”
Home Health took over the program in 1989. According to Trish Berns, chief nursing officer, prior to that, the nurses station at the Abilene hospital monitored the calls.
In other action the board:
• approved capital expenditures, under the condition that an attempt is being made to salvage the current IV blanket warmer (all budgeted items);
— ultrasound table and chairs and handrail kit (RAD), $8,144;
— blanket warmer (OR) to warm IV and irrigation fluids and blankets for patient use, $7,577.07;
— warming cabinet (ER),$7,557.07;
— used surgical table (OR) – $23,108.41
— pass through assembly between the decontamination and clean rooms in sterile processing (SPD), $5,221.39;
• approved the consent agenda which contained purchases over $1,000 but under $5,000 including (all budgeted items);
— MRI safe stretcher (Rad), $3,366.41;
— MRI safe wheelchair with oxygen holder (Rad), $1,783.22;
— ice dispenser (OR), $3,378;
— two Flexline Carts (OR/anesthesia), $2,248.48;
— scope cabinet (OR/SPD), $2,639.71’
— ice dispenser (ER), $3,378;
— crash cart - Flexline (ER), $1,462.11;
— transport stretchers (ER/OR), $30,130.