Lately, everyone I meet seems to have the same question: Amid a historic pandemic, how are we doing?
I tell them that at Howard County General Hospital, we are ready and we are resilient. And that’s in no small part because of the support we are receiving from the community.
As Howard County’s only hospital, we have a special responsibility to provide for the health of our community and to deliver on our promises to you to become the healthiest place in the nation. That was the path we were on before the coronavirus began its spread, and it is the path on which we remain.
We recently asked our managers to tell us what strengths they have found in themselves and in their colleagues as they respond to COVID-19. The most common answers were teamwork, perseverance, flexibility, adaptability, compassion, tenacity and innovation. They are deservedly proud of all they do to deliver safe and high-quality care under extreme conditions.
But we are not alone, and I want to extend our thanks to everyone outside our hospital walls who has responded during this challenging time:
- Volunteers have donated supplies such as cloth masks, along with contributions of cash and food for our caregivers.
- First responders, the Howard County Health Department and the county Office of Emergency Management have been strong partners every day, all day.
- Our state and local elected officials have made sure we have the resources we need to continue our operations. The recently adopted Howard County budget contains strong support for Howard County General Hospital, recognizing that our buildings and our programs serve a vital function for everyone. It is heartwarming to receive this backing, and we thank County Executive Calvin Ball and the County Council.
- The Horizon Foundation and other nonprofits have helped fill gaps that have emerged.
- Our hospital has risen to the challenge as part of the Johns Hopkins Health System. On the few occasions when our caseload of COVID-19 patients has surged beyond our immediate bed capacity, Johns Hopkins Hospital has accepted some of our critically ill patients. This insured our ability to meet all of our community needs.
The stresses facing our staff have grown in recent days, as outrage is rightly boiling over regarding the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many other Black people. Already exerting themselves to handle health emergencies, our incredibly diverse staff grapples with all the inequities that trouble our nation. We, as an institution, are continually working on ways to make sure our teammates can express themselves as we build the most supportive environment we can.
There are uncomfortable conversations taking place, but we will learn and grow from them.
Through it all, we still want to thank you for the incredible support you have shown us by providing the best care possible, for any need you might have. We are reopening our operating rooms for elective and nonemergency procedures and have all the right processes and protocols in place to keep all patients and staff safe.
We have learned to coexist with this virus and provide safe care within the hospital for all patients. Until there is an effective vaccine, however, real risk remains in the community. Please be personally responsible for your own health and the health of others by continuing to wear masks, wash your hands frequently and maintain social distancing — even as you venture out to shop, recreate and protest.
When we look back on this time, we will recognize that we have passed the hard test. The strength of this community, working together, will have triumphed.
The writer is the president of Howard County General Hospital.