Pandemic fatigue and pandemic denial have placed our exhausted healthcare workers at risk during a time when we depend on them most to help our loved ones and ourselves in need of their healing care. In contrast, our selfless actions to prevent someone else from getting sick and our prayers will strengthen healthcare workers’ ability to respond and to save lives.
On Nov. 14, Iowa hospitals were caring for 1,261 patients, 246 of them in the ICU. Nearly 2,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Iowa since the start of the pandemic in mid-March (coronavirus.iowa.gov). “We need the public out there to be praying for our healthcare workers. Everyone’s job in healthcare got a lot harder because of the pandemic,” says Doug Cropper, president and CEO of Genesis Health System, based in Davenport.
Genesis averaged about three COVID-19 patient admissions daily from the start of the pandemic March 15 until Oct. 15. In the month since then, “we’ve seen an exponential increase,” with the average rising to 17 admissions daily over the past 7 to 10 days, he said Nov. 13. The daily census averaged 20 COVID-19 patients at the start of the pandemic. That average has grown to 110, and continues to rise.
Health systems located elsewhere in the Diocese of Davenport also are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 patients, which places tremendous pressure on healthcare workers. They take extra shifts, don protective equipment to assist patients with COVID-19, care for overflow patients from other hospital units and have less time to spend with each patient, cope with loss, and worry about protecting their own families and themselves from the coronavirus.
Nurse Ann Elsbecker works in the obstetrics-pediatric unit of Mercy Iowa City where she also cares for patients from other units. She will not allow the pandemic to take away her passion for nursing, but admits, “It’s very draining. It’s always in the back of my mind.” We owe nurses and other healthcare workers our promise to practice the safety protocols called for by the CDC so that they can continue their mission of healing. “I want to be able to continue to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Elsbecker said.
More than 180,000 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 in Iowa since the start of the pandemic, which requires hospitals to pivot, collaborate and think outside the box to respond to the uncontrolled spread of the disease. Genesis has moved from primary nursing care to team nursing, where one “super” nurse leads a team of other nurses and professionals and nonclinical staff to care for as many as 20 patients.
At the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, “Our teams caring directly for COVID patients are feeling strained,” said Emily Ward, associate chief nurse executive. “While the teams are exhausted, I also believe they are supporting one another to get through this tough time.” Our Gospel mandate calls us to do the same. Supporting one another means, among other things, avoiding risks that could cause others to get sick and health systems and workers to get overwhelmed.
“The number of COVID-19 inpatients at MercyOne Clinton Medical Center has doubled in the last seven days,” Amy Berentes, MercyOne’s executive vice president, COO and chief nursing officer said Nov. 13. MercyOne has the capacity and capability to respond to this crisis, but its resources are not indefinite. She and other healthcare leaders ask all of us to help change the trajectory.
• Always wear a mask in public places and anytime you are in close contact with others. Wearing your mask protects you and those around you. “MercyOne Clinton Medical Center supports a mask mandate at this critical point in time,” Berentes said.
• Avoid large gatherings. Limit gatherings and events to your immediate family.
• Maintain social distancing. Stay at least six feet apart from those outside your household.
• Perform frequent hand washing.
• Promote a model of care called the home treatment team (HTT), which helps keep patients out of the hospital. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has around 90 patients enrolled in its HTT program and encourages other organizations to follow suit, which Genesis Health System did. Doctors and nurses follow up with patients enrolled in an HTT.
• Pray. “If you know someone who works in healthcare, give them an air hug and pray for them by name,” Cropper said. “Maybe take a loaf of banana bread or a plate of chocolate chip cookies to them. They deserve your appreciation and your accolades.”
• Contribute to the Healthcare Workforce Support Fund at Genesis. Go to the payment form link, (https://igfn.us/form/UIBmSw).
Post this quote from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease: “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care for other people.”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor