As COVID-19 continues to surge in DeWitt and surrounding counties, Cuero Regional Hospital offers an inside glimpse into the chaos it is creating and calls on the community to rally behind the solution: vaccinations.
Lynn Falcone, CEO of Cuero Regional Hospital, said, “Today, your Cuero Regional Hospital, including its clinics, home health and EMS, feel under siege. We are currently seeing a surge of COVID positive patients in our hospital and our Cuero Family Clinics which makes managing all other patients a major challenge. I am so incredibly proud of our staff and physicians who continue to pull together as a close team to provide care to our community members who are sick; very sick with COVID and other major illnesses.”
Falcone shared that the wait in the Cuero Regional Hospital Emergency Department has become excessive overnight due to the influx of patients needing immediate care. “Other area emergency rooms are just as busy as we are and have an 8-10 hour wait. While our wait times are not to that level, we still have frustrated and ill patients that are taking it out on staff who are doing their best to care for patients,” said Falcone.
Falcone shared that from August 10 – 12, Cuero Regional Hospital and Cuero Family Clinics have tested 150 patients with a COVID-19 positivity rate of 43+%. Statewide, hospitals are full making transfers a major challenge, said Falcone; over the last few weeks, CRH has accepted transfers from more overloaded areas. “Today we are full with patients from our own communities,” said Falcone.
Judy Krupala, CRH Chief Nursing Officer added that, “Thanks to our partnership with Methodist Healthcare, we have been able to transfer some of our critical, non-COVID patients.”
Becky Murray, RN at Cuero Regional Hospital, shared her experience working on the Med Surg unit, “I am proud to say that I am a Nurse at Cuero Regional Hospital. CRH has a great caring and compassionate team; COVID has taken its toll on everyone. The COVID virus puts us all in the same boat. It does not care who you are, your race, your sex or your age! COVID has caused this pandemic and is not going anywhere if we do not do our part.”
Murray recommends that everyone get the vaccine. “I do also respect your wishes and your right to make that decision. The right to live is your choice. Know the facts and not just things you read or see on the Internet. Please follow the CDC’s guidelines. The vaccine is working; it reduces the odds of being hospitalized or dying. It is not the cure, but a preventative measure. The vaccine helps your body build antigens to fight the virus. Yes, we might need a booster. COVID is very unpredictable; something that medicine has not seen before. It will take ALL of us to help stop this virus.”
For the CRH nursing team, Murray added the challenges the staff is facing with COVID patients. “It is extremely hard on staff to see a patient struggling to breathe. When the patient does not get the oxygen the body needs, the patient starts to fight to live. They get confused and combative. One minute we are giving them medications and comfort, and then we might be fighting to keep them from hurting themselves. COVID is causing multiple things to go wrong; forming blood clots, causing stokes, heart attacks and other organ failures. COVID is unpredictable.”
Angie Osborne, RN, Cuero Regional Hospital ER nurse who has been with the organization for 20 years, offered a glimpse into the current situation that she is seeing on the frontlines as the healthcare team battles COVID-19. “To serve my community is an honor and a labor of love, but I want to share that our ER team is not faced with one critically ill patient; we take care of many at one time, every single day. We are seeing masses infected with COVID. We push and fight for you and for those that you love. We use every intervention and resource that we have and this wave of COVID-19 feels like a tsunami pounding down on us. We work long days, often coming in on days off to help one another. We have a great team.”
“Today, our nursing units are at capacity and our ER is overwhelmed with patients seeking care,” said Falcone. “Our staff remains diligent and focused on providing good quality care despite being exhausted from working extra shifts and donning/doffing PPE. They wear their masks all day, rarely taking breaks. I share this so that you understand that COVID-19 is absolutely real and people, your friends and neighbors, are greatly affected.”
Falcone quickly pointed to the cause of the high hospitalization rate at Cuero Regional Hospital; unvaccinated patients with severe COVID symptoms. “It’s simple; our COVID hospitalizations are unvaccinated individuals.”
In terms of vaccinated individuals testing positive for COVID-19, Falcone said “yes, we are seeing that as well at our clinics’ testing locations, but those that have the vaccine are having less severe symptoms with none requiring hospitalization. To those that say the vaccine doesn’t work, the answer is YES it does; it is keeping those people out of the hospital as they recover from mild COVID-19 symptoms.”
In a recent article published by The Victoria Advocate, Dr. John McNeill, the local health department authority for Victoria, DeWitt and Goliad counties, shared the following when asked how many of the COVID patients he was seeing were unvaccinated, “99% of them are unvaccinated. We don’t have a pandemic in vaccinated patients. We have a pandemic in unvaccinated patients, and I hope you quote that.”
While many are in fear of the vaccine based on its newness, Falcone countered that it has actually been tested since the early 2000’s, but then SARS declined. When SARS COV2 (COVID 19) resurfaced so did the MRNA vaccine. “I do not share this to debate; it is your decision to vaccinate or not. However; know that each individual that embraces and receives the vaccine that it does make a difference.”
The CDC’s website features a Myths and Facts about COVID Vaccines page to help dispel vaccine rumors that are often featured and spread on social media: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html
Murry added, “CRH is here to help support you and care for you and your families. I ask you to please be kind and understanding with each other. Tell the people you care for how much you love them. This COVID pandemic is real and it might just be the last time you get to see them or speak to them.” Falcone encouraged the public to thank a healthcare worker. “They are phenomenal people. They continue to fight COVID-19 with confidence and bravery; showing up and suiting up for our patients and supporting one another.”
Murray asked for the public to be considerate and kind when communicating with the healthcare team at Cuero Regional Hospital. “It takes a strong compassionate nurse to handle 12 hours of very sick patients, talking to family and protecting themselves and their family. Yet, they volunteer to work an extra shift to help their co-workers or so we can admit more patients. So, please be kind when you call the nurse or doctor for information and say thanks. That is all we ask. Nurses are the most caring compassionate people I know or how could we do this every day.”
Osborne said, “We stand and fight COVID every single day; leaving our own families to rescue yours. We arm ourselves with all of the protection that we can. Please do the same. Symptomatically, what we see in vaccinated versus unvaccinated patients is incredibly vast. If you are on the fence, please educate yourself about the vaccine. Our ER is not facing only COVID-19; we care for every other illness and injury that comes through the ER doors. We need your help in this fight.”
For those wishing to schedule a vaccination appointment, call Cuero Regional Hospital’s central scheduling at 361-275-0170. Vaccines are offered on Thursdays in the Outpatient Clinic. At this time, the hospital has Moderna vaccines and has requested doses of Pfizer. Both vaccines are a two-dose series; Pfizer is available for those 12 years of age and older. For questions and the latest on vaccines, as well as COVID-19 updates from Cuero Regional Hospital, visit www.CueroHospital.org and click on COVID-19 Updates. For questions on vaccines, email firstname.lastname@example.org
For those needing a COVID-19 test, contact your primary care provider as a physician’s order is required. Falcone shared this order helps Cuero Health to manage the results more timely. Once the order is secured, patients may present for testing to Cuero Regional Hospital through screening (located in the rear of the hospital at the Cuero Medical Clinic entrance) or get tested at one of the Cuero Family Clinics’ locations.
“We are all in this together. We need our community to stand together to get us through this pandemic. Vaccinations are the solution. Have the conversation with your healthcare provider today. We are here for you and need your support more than ever,” said Falcone.