Letter to the Editor: A plea to our community from MRH
We need our communities to help protect our health care workers from community spread. We need our health care workers to be safe when they go to the store. We need our health care workers to be safe when they go home at night to be with their families.
I realize that many people do not “believe” that COVID-19 is as severe as claimed. MRH and Moffat County has been “lucky” so far. We have had “geography” on our side.
However, let me share with you what we are currently seeing in the overall healthcare delivery system in Colorado. Specifically, Colorado hospitals are experiencing a rate above ten percent (10%) of staff outages due to employee sickness with COVID-19. Secondly, bed space at higher acuity facilities is almost non-existent. What do these two facts mean? First, it means that facilities are starting to be unable to accept sicker patients for both COVID and NON-COVID issues. While facilities like MRH are still able to receive patients, all non-urban hospitals and are struggling to find beds for patients that need a higher level of intensive care at their respective referral centers. Imagine coming to your local hospital with a severe cardiac issue and having no availability in Grand Junction, Denver, or Utah to get the interventional care you need. We are on the brink of this exact scenario occurring.
As many of you know, MRH did not “panic” in the spring when the first wave of COVID-19 came to Moffat County. To a large degree, we bucked the trend and kept doing elective surgeries throughout this period. We felt it was the right thing, and we could continue to do it safely. I say this because I am asking you with all sincerity to hear me. To this end, permit me to take a minute to express a few continued “Myths” versus “Facts” around our current situation that we continue to hear in the community:
-Myth: The flu is more deadly than COVID-19
-Fact: In the 2017-18 flu season (the most recent data available), 577 Coloradans died from the flu. Since March, COVID-19 has killed more than 2,150 Coloradans.
-Myth: Face masks don’t work
-Fact: Studies have shown that cloth face coverings over the mouth and nose help reduce the spread of respiratory droplets that contain the virus. The CDC and WHO recommend wearing face coverings when out in public, in addition to proper social distancing and frequent hand washing.
-Myth: COVID-19 isn’t fatal for the vast majority of people, so I don’t need to worry about it
-Fact: Nearly 2% of Coloradans that have contracted COVID-19 have died from it. Many people will have health complications for the rest of their lives because of a COVID-19 diagnosis. Just because you might not die from it doesn’t mean you couldn’t infect someone who would.
-Myth: My hospital has had plenty of capacity all year – the danger of overwhelming the system is being exaggerated.
-Fact: This is a different time of year – one when most hospitals are busier and have more patients. It’s not uncommon to have some hospitals be completely full this time of year, which will mean we have fewer choices if we need help. It’s essential to protect as much hospital capacity as possible so that we can still care for people who have heart attacks, strokes, and other medical emergencies. In the spring, hospital ICUs were running as low as 50-60% full; today, they are 82%+ full with more patients every day. While the healthcare delivery system still has some capacity, it won’t last much longer as the current growth rate continues. Staffing is the new protective personal equipment (PPE) problem as the healthcare delivery staff is getting “sick” and unable to work.
I acknowledge that we are “tired” of dealing with COVID-19. We are all tired of the social isolation, the mental health issues the isolation is causing, and the stress that comes with this situation. It isn’t easy. However, we have to practice the three W’s (1 – Wear your mask, 2 – Wash your hands. 3 – Watch your distance). Your life may depend on it.
Andrew J. Daniels, MRH CEO
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