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Healthcare Umbrella

by Michelle Fortune

We are entering Autumn, and the leaves are changing, and I wish I had positive news about the changing Covid cases in our community. But our eighteen-month nightmare continues. We at St. Luke’s are seeing the most extensive inpatient Covid admissions since the pandemic erupted.

Local, Regional and Beyond

Across North Carolina and beyond, hospitals are full. In our region, some hospitals are so overwhelmed that they raise tents to care for overflow patients. Because of the Covid spike in Caldwell County, Samaritan’s Purse has set up an emergency field hospital to relieve the pressure at the University of North Carolina facility and surrounding hospitals. In my 30-year nursing career, I have never experienced anything like this. 

Our St Luke’s heroes have risen in ways that I find genuinely humbling. It’s been remarkable to watch them become closer as a unit and cover for each other. Teammates have changed their schedules, picked up additional shifts and worked very long hours. And as hospitals in surrounding areas have reached capacity and stopped accepting out-of-county patients, many of our staff have cross-trained so that we could treat more patients here. 

St. Luke’s

Our ICU beds have been at capacity for the last six weeks. And this past weekend, our emergency department and medical-surgical unit reached capacity. The reserves of equipment and supplies that we purchased earlier this year have served us exceptionally well. We’re using all our ventilators and personal protective equipment. We’re infusing more patients with cutting-edge monoclonal antibodies attempting to preempt the need for hospitalization. Our physicians and healthcare workers are providing exceptional care, and I am proud of their efforts. 

Through it all, the deaths of Covid positive patients have weighed heavily on all of us. 

Those testing positive are growing, and so are the numbers of those who have not survived the virus. I need your help. When in public, please wear your mask, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing and consider taking the Covid vaccine. A study endorsed by the CDC and completed between April 4-July 17 of this year showed that fully vaccinated individuals have a 5x reduced risk of infection, a greater than 10x reduced risk of hospitalization and a greater than 10x reduced risk of death. I can confirm for you that when reviewing St Luke’s Covid admissions, more than 90 percent of those admissions have been unvaccinated individuals. More than 95% of ventilated patients with Covid have been unvaccinated individuals as well. This data point is very important. Please call us if you have questions or need more information about the vaccine.

Should you remain steadfast in not taking the vaccine, I urge you to please utilize all scientific preventative measures possible to minimize the spread of the Covid virus to others. In addition to the steps mentioned in this article, your provider is also an excellent source of information. We need your help to protect not only yourself but others.

We are in unprecedented times

If you’re not feeling well and have any Covid symptoms, please see your provider immediately and be tested. And until you are sure of your Covid status, please quarantine. We need everyone to work together to avoid spreading the virus, which will ensure that hospitals, beds and staff are available to care for those who desperately need the care; Covid positive patients, stroke and heart attack victims and all medical issues alike. 

Please be safe to help us better help you.

If you have a healthcare topic of interest, send me a note at Michelle.Fortune@slhnc.org.