Casinos, hospitals deal with elements

Vehicles travel along I-395 in the area of Moxley Road in Montville during the blizzard Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Vehicles travel along I-395 in the area of Moxley Road in Montville during the blizzard Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

The region’s casinos and hospitals were ready for Thursday’s blizzard.

Forecasts of the storm had prompted the early cancellation of scheduled bus runs to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun — nearly a year to the day after a Mohegan Sun-bound coach slid off Interstate 95 in Madison.

“We called all the bus companies yesterday and canceled. No buses today,” John Voisinet, Foxwoods’ executive director of junket and bus marketing, wrote in an email.

Ray Pineault, Mohegan Sun’s president and general manager, said Mohegan Sun officials had been monitoring weather reports for 48 hours in advance of the storm and had been in constant communication with bus operators that transport patrons daily from New York, Boston and elsewhere in southern New England.

Two outbound buses left the casino at 1:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. Thursday, well before it started snowing, Pineault said. After that, all bus operations were suspended for 24 hours.

With fewer customers Thursday and none arriving by bus, the casinos adjusted their workforces.

“Team member and guest safety is a top priority on days like today, when a significant storm hits the region,” Pineault said. “Preparedness begins days before anticipated weather events with regular updates from our Tribal Safety and Emergency Operations divisions. While the storm is impacting our area, we don’t encourage anyone to be on the roads and are providing hotel rooms to team members as needed.”

Mohegan Sun closed about a dozen of its restaurants Thursday and about as many of its retail shops. The majority of its restaurants and outlets remained open, though, including Michael Jordan’s 23.sportcafe, Pepe's Pizza, Summer Shack and Tom's Urban.

At Foxwoods, the safety of the casino’s guests and employees is of paramount importance, a spokeswoman wrote in an email.

“During weather events, Foxwoods asks that Team Members not in operations remain at home, and Team Members who are essential to the resort casino remaining operational are offered a hotel room so they do not have to travel in the inclement weather,” Ashley Polo wrote.

In “right-sizing” the property, Foxwoods typically keeps its Grand Pequot and Fox towers and their amenities open, she wrote.

Foxwoods was waiving cancellation fees for hotel patrons who are unable to travel to the casino Thursday and Friday.

At the region’s two hospitals, some satellite facilities closed during the storm, but the main campuses remained open, with some staff staying overnight.

“The timing of the storm helped. People were able to get in in the morning for their shifts, and some made plans to stay overnight, so we’re well staffed,” said Ron Kersey, director of emergency management and emergency management coordinator at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London.

Only a few staff members were unable to get to work, but extra staff members were on hand to fill the need, he said.

The bigger impacts would be Thursday evening, when travel for second-shift staff could be especially difficult, he said.

“We have people on standby” who can come in if needed, he added.

While the main hospital, Pequot Health Center in Groton, the cancer center in Waterford and rehabilitation services all remained open, physicians’ offices affiliated with L+M closed for the day, according to spokesman Mike O’Farrell.

At The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, accommodations were made for staff to stay overnight, said Steve Coates, hospital spokesman. Backus-affiliated family health centers in Ledyard, North Stonington and the primary care center and rehabilitation services in Waterford closed Thursday. All Backus outpatient physical and occupational therapy offices also closed.

At the Backus Outpatient Care Center in Norwich, endocrinology, diabetes, wound care, arthritis and rheumatology, pain management and medication management services were closed, but diagnostic imaging, rehabilitation and laboratory services remained open. Backus family health centers in Montville, Colchester and Norwichtown also remained open, Coates said.

Both hospitals said emergency department traffic had been light through the storm.

“But we expect to see an increase in patients visiting the ER after the storm ends from slips and falls, accidents related to snow removal and exposure to the cold,” Coates said.

Pfizer Inc. limited operations at its Groton facility Thursday.

"Our number-one site priority is colleague safety," Samantha Reardon, a spokeswoman at the drugmaker's headquarters in New York, wrote in an email. "When we are experiencing certain weather conditions, we evaluate alternate work schedule options such as a delayed start, telecommuting, or as we decided today, a site closure with site access restricted to essential personnel only."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

j.benson@theday.com

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