2020 National Hospital Week – May 10-16, 2020
Over the past 8-10 weeks our definition of normal has changed drastically – from the daily grind of going to work, school or the grocery store; all changed with the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting the entire world, including Cuero, Texas. It seems no place and no one is unaffected.
I am incredibly proud of the team at Cuero Health who implemented its Disaster Command Center on March 9 and began learning and planning. Not just learning and planning on how to respond to the virus, but what needed to be done to protect our staff and our patients and our community. As the CDC and National experts learned more about the virus and re-thought safety precautions and PPE preservation, information changed weekly if not daily. Although stressful, the CRH staff (including our Cuero Health clinics, Cuero Home Health, Cuero Wellness Center & EMS) did a great job at adapting. Our Department leaders and our Board members continued to meet via conference call to assure that business goes on despite the stay at home orders. The resilience shown has been amazing.
Then, on March 18, COVID-19 hit Cuero Regional Hospital; the pandemic became very real. We had our first patient who tested positive. In spite of the undeniably overwhelming information that we pushed to our staff and physicians over the prior nine days, our staff did amazing! Appropriate patient management of risks, use of PPE and communication were keys to our response. We communicated first to staff that treated the patient directly and I was amazed at how the staff involved handled it. Yes, they had questions, but basically had the “that’s what we are here for” attitude. Once the positive test result was under our belt, staff managed like champs – with questions and concerns. With lots of communication and rounding, staff seemed to be at ease. I am happy to report that our PPE supply remains good and as of today, have had no Cuero Health employee test positive.
Cuero Health has been blessed, to date, with only two patients that required short inpatient stays and have been able to recuperate in the comfort of their own homes. At the recommendation of one of our Respiratory Therapists who worked with our Maintenance Director, our entire ICU was converted to a negative pressure unit so we could isolate our COVID-19 patients and preserve PPE. An agreement was set up to provide tele-pulmonary services to COVID-19 patients in support of our local physicians. Our physicians and clinic staff quickly set up phone visits to help people stay at home, yet get the medical attention they needed. When lab testing was required, patients were directed to the hospital drive through lab which was set up to reduce possible exposure and limit the number of people coming in to the hospital/clinic. Our rural Cuero Health clinics did a great job with their patients and even assessed in their cars in the clinic parking lots. It has been clear that our staff and physicians’ concern for their patients was paramount!
As our community stayed home, the pandemic brought incredibly low volumes in the hospital, the clinics and in the ER. Staff were sent home on overstaff because the number of patients needing care was so low; the Wellness Center, Bloomingdeals and Wishing Well Gift Shop were closed; and elective surgeries stopped in accordance with the Governor’s executive orders. While staff were prepared for the pandemic, they were being sent home – something that created a new stress on top of the pandemic. I am thankful for the Hospital Board’s support and the team’s work over the past four years to put Cuero Regional Hospital in a strong financial position to pay each employee 100% of their base pay, despite their worked hours, through the end of May.
As of today, we have re-opened surgeries and are able to safely care for those who have held off on procedures over the last month or so; we wait the re-opening of our Wellness Center on May 18th. Although, this past 45 days have been strange to say the least, I am impressed by the community support of the organization with the donations and the food for staff during this time. I have also witnessed our team become a stronger family during this time. Staff working to support other departments, doctors working to get more PPE, providers giving up vacations to assure the hospital was covered and sharing goodies across the organization. Resilience. Team. Family.
We have not been hit with an overwhelming surge of COVID-19 patients, but we are ready. Our staff and physicians are here to provide care and meet patient demands as they always have been. Things are fairly calm and each day we pray this continues and we share the positive things. This week we learned that Cuero Regional Hospital was recognized as 2nd runner up as a Best Place to work in all of the Crossroads area from The Victoria Advocate! Additionally, our stroke program was recognized for its Gold Plus stroke program status in US News & World Report. This is a great reminder for our staff that the work they do is important and recognized.
During this pandemic, we celebrated Doctor’s Day; and we are heading into May, which was to be a celebration of Nurse’s Week and Hospital Week capped off by a picnic at Cuero Municipal Park complete with cook out and pool time for our staff, physicians and families. Given our environment, we are continually re-calculating. We are blessed to have had individual and business donations that allow us to do hospital week, albeit a bit different. We will still have hospital week t-shirts for our Healthcare Heroes (designed by a hospital pharmacy employees, Olga Jackson and Lisa Chavez) and we will still have a cook out – The senior leadership team will package the grilled burgers and deliver via drive through for our staff. A special thank you to:
HHS, City of Cuero, Cuero Hospital Volunteers, Prosperity Bank of Cuero, Victoria Hospitalist Associates and Cuero Walmart.
Also, thanks to: DeWitt Medical Foundation, Faye & Joe Sheppard, GVEC, Hall Electric Company, Inc., Regional Pathology Associates, Southwest Medical Associates, Inc. and Weber Motor Company, as well as the individuals that contributed: Alma & James Alexander, Dolan Rental Properties, Lynn & Jeff Falcone, First Presbyterian Church of Cuero, Judy & Larry Krupala, Denise & Jeff McMahan and Jackie & Charles Papacek. Also our supporters and in-kind donations: Townsquare Media
Cuero Nursing & Rehab, Diamond K Services, Ful-O-Pep of Cuero, A Special Stitch, Cuero Chamber of Commerce, Exibix, Inc., Suzie & Nathan Post, McMahan Services Ltd. James Telco and The Cuero Record.
While this pandemic is not over and we are ready to care for patients testing positive, every part of our organization is ready to care for you today! We do look forward to those new quarantine babies in 9 months – we will have a new Family Practice OB physician (Dr. Nick Lemley) join us before then! I am blessed to be a part of Cuero Health and thank the staff and physicians for being healthcare heroes everyday as they deliver new babies, care for those in crisis due to a stroke, heart attack, cancer, or mental health issues. Being a health care worker is no easy task. Each day they strive to be better and care for our community despite the circumstance. I thank all of our community members for trusting us to care for you!
Happy Hospital Week Cuero Regional Hospital (Clinics, Home Health, EMS, Wellness)!
Thanks for the incredible work you do!
Lynn Falcone, CEO of Cuero Health