BY KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH
Randy Causey has spent the last several years preparing East Alabama Medical Center for potential disasters, but now he’s preparing for a new chapter in his life.
After 44 years working at East Alabama Health (EAH) — formerly Lee County Hospital, and then East Alabama Medical Center — Causey is set to retire this week.
“I’ll miss the people, but I’m loving getting ready for retirement,” he said. “… I could have actually retired a couple of years ago but just really wasn’t ready.”
Causey began his journey with EAH on Sept. 5, 1978. His wife Debra, who was working in personnel at Lee County Hospital, told him about a job opening in the business office and encouraged him to apply.
“The gentleman that hired me felt like I could do a good job and work with the community,” Causey recalled. “At the time everybody’s hospital bills were sent out, I was kind of the guy known in the community as the person who sent out all the hospital bills. That was kind of a daunting task for a few years.”
In 1985, the hospital contracted a security firm and Causey was appointed to a new role: safety officer/emergency planner. Vice President Dan Chilldress gave Causey his start in the field and “taught me a lot” about safety and security, he said. But his new role came with another big task — hiring people across several departments.
“That’s a program that is still in place today,” he said. “There are obviously a whole lot of different people, but over the years I’ve literally hired a few thousand students and different people in the community to work in the departments of security, patient transportation, communications and patient information services.”
Many of those employees went on to enjoy fruitful careers — some in the medical field, some in other professions — and Causey has even hired children of former employees, forming memories and bonds he’ll “never forget.”
That wasn’t all Causey was up to, though; he graduated from Faulkner University in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in human resources management. He would also receive a certification in emergency preparedness from the University of South Alabama in 2015. For two years he served on the education committee at the University of Alabama Mobile Center for Emergency Preparedness to help develop the certification process for health care emergency managers.
As he evolved professionally, becoming more experienced and educated with hospital safety and security, Causey said his duties also evolved.
“The job that I’ve always had is to develop emergency response plans to different types of disasters, and we would always have to have two disaster drills a year,” he explained. “I’ve always worked real closely with Southern Union, and most recently Auburn University students into that, and then there’s a whole team of people inside the hospital.
“In most recent years, the emphasis of my career has been in emergency management. After 2005 when Hurricane Katrina went through, more emphasis was placed on hospitals and health care organizations to be responsible for emergency preparedness.”
While most of these plans are created with the hope they won’t be needed, Lee County has seen its fair share of disasters with hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms and the COVID-19 pandemic. It was Causey’s job to create the just-in-case plans for these, but he credited the teams and partners in and out of the hospital for successfully carrying out those plans when they’ve been put to the test.
“I think the night of the 2019 tornado — that was the first night that the EAMC ever [experienced a disaster] of that magnitude, and of course we had developed all sorts of plans over the years,” Causey recalled. “… Of course, we all know what the results of that night was, but we had lots of disaster drills.”
Serving as chairman of the East Central Health Care Coalition of Alabama, which covers eight counties, also connected Causey with several agencies to learn from and call on for help. The Lee County Emergency Management Agency has been one such partner, he said.
“My philosophy’s always been, ‘You want to know who you’re going to call at 2 a.m. if you’ve got a disaster,’” he added.
Although Causey said he’s sad to leave the people he has come to know and love through work, he has enjoyed spending the past few months training and mentoring a younger generation of employees to do what he does.
Still, he said he is looking forward to spending more time with family — and being able to sleep during storms.
“When I was raising my children … I would have to hug them and say, ‘You know where the safe places are. I’ve got to go to work,’” Causey recalled. “And I would drive out the driveway and not come back for a couple days sometimes, especially when it snowed. My wife Debra … has been real strong, and real willing and able to take care of [everything]. … I didn’t have to worry about it, but that was always something I didn’t enjoy doing.”
Causey’s son Jon is now a registered nurse at EAH, and his other son Justin is a supervisor at UPS. Both have families of their own.
“I want to see snowfall so I can go play with my granddaughters because I was never able to do that with my own sons, but they’re 3-and-a-half and 4, and they’re the absolute loves of my life,” he said. “So we’re going to spend a lot of time with them.”
The family also has a house at Lake Martin, and Causey said he’s “going to spend a lot of time in a boat.” First, though, he plans to photograph plenty of Lake Martin sunsets.
Besides that, Causey said he is looking forward to resting, relaxing and traveling — but he’ll still be around.
“I’ll miss the people, I’ll miss the drills, I’ll miss my relationship with the people in the community … but I live here,” he said. “I’m not moving off to some island, so I’ll see them all at some point in time.”