When an earthquake that reached 7.0 on the Richter scale shook Alaska’s Anchorage / Wasilla area in early December, the Surgery Center of Wasilla stood strong and ready to assist the community.

Wasilla Administrator Juan Uson, R.N., says while his center is located close to the epicenter of the recent earthquake, the relatively new facility was constructed to withstand such challenges. In fact, it came through the earthquake with minimal damage and was able to not only successfully complete procedures that had been underway, but to assist other physicians in the area by offering them a place to see patients while their own locations had no power.

The Wasilla facility had been through many earthquake drills since opening. “But it’s always different when you experience the real deal,” Uson says. “Even when you’ve done the drills, it’s a little bit tense when you have something like this – a minute and a half of earthquake. That’s a long time.”

When the earthquake hit, the center had surgeries underway in the OR, so the drills really paid off. The OR staff did exactly what they were supposed to do to close up safely until the earthquake had passed and conditions were declared stable enough to complete those cases. Says Uson: “I’m proud to say our staff was able to carry on just as we had practiced so many times.

“Thanks to our generator, our system has an equivalent of three days of ongoing power, so we also were willing to house hospice patients and renal patients that depend on oxygen and dialysis,” Uson continues. “We received several calls and were all set to host ten such patients that first night, but then the power came back on. What we did do over the following three days, though, was allow doctors whose own facilities had been damaged to use our examination areas to see their patients.”

Uson said many area healthcare facilities had plumbing issues and cracked walls, so in the aftermath their facilities needed to be examined by city and state officials before they were declared safe for use.

“For the most part we did not have any damage here at our center,” he explains. “This building was built to stay put, but in such a way that it will sway with an earthquake. We had some cracked caulk and a damaged door frame, but not too bad at all. Our general contractor inspected those things and we were cleared, so we didn’t need to wait for examination by state or city officials.”

As a result, the Wasilla center was back to business as normal on the second day, and able to accommodate other physicians as well until they could go back to their own facilities three days later. Click here for more information about the Surgery Center of Wasilla.