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Hospital strain hurts us all

A few days ago, I visited a friend who lives in the middle of Morgantown. Sitting on her normally peaceful back porch, I took note of three, four … then five helicopters passing overhead throughout the evening, headed for WVU Medicine J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital. I asked her if that was normal.

“It has been for the past few months,” she said.

We hear on the scanner in the newsroom when there are no units available to pick up patients, or when a unit is held up because they are “waiting on a bed.” Those instances, too, have increased.

I spoke to someone the other day who told me of a relative of hers who had been in an accident, near a relatively rural hospital. They did not have room for him. He was transported to Morgantown, where there was also not room for him. Eventually, he ended up in Pittsburgh. Another person who was listening in on the conversation told us of an acquaintance who had a stroke, and had not yet received what might normally be considered complete care, because local medical facilities were so swamped.

At one point last month, WVU Medicine Camden Clark had to declare a “mini-disaster alert…”

” … defined as notification from a hospital that a physical incapacitation of a necessary functional component of the hospital has occurred, making further patient care untenable,” said President and CEO Steve Altmiller at the time. “Beginning early morning on (Sept. 13), CCMC started experiencing decreased pressure on its oxygen supply coming from (oxygen) storage tanks. The issue came about due to the extraordinary increase in oxygen required to treat predominantly COVID patients.”

In other words, it is not just space at a premium, it is also resources such as oxygen — and human power. I can’t fathom what the healthcare workers in these facilities are going through. I know how I feel after what seems like a tough day. It can’t come close to what they are carrying home with them.

Both our local hospitals are facing higher COVID-19 census numbers now than at any time during the first wave of the pandemic. But it is not just facilities facing that challenge, it is our friends, neighbors, fellow church members, parents of students in your kids’ classes … these folks are a huge part of our community, and if we’re not doing all we can to stem the spread of this virus and its variants, we are making their lives harder — and we are putting them in danger.

If you are eligible and able, but have not yet gotten vaccinated, think about it, next time you see a medical helicopter flying overhead, or hear a story about a medical procedure that had to be delayed. Think about the people in your life who don’t have a choice — young children, elderly family members, or those who have conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated right now. All they have is the hope that the people who love them WILL get vaccinated and be less likely to spread a deadly disease to them.

If you have not yet gotten vaccinated, who are you putting at risk? Who are you letting down?

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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