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That darn curve

Healthcare Umbrella

By Michelle Fortune

Masks and curves have become part of my daily life. Flattening the curve is likely now a statement that is prevalent in most households.

The actions taken by our Governor and other leaders across the state, including having us stay home, have indeed helped flatten the curve. Due to our diligence, it is projected that North Carolina will not likely have a situation where there are more Covid-19 patients than hospital beds and resources. The question we all begin to ask now is, “Will the curve stay flat enough as we begin to get back to business as usual?”

This topic has become the focus of conversation among hospital leaders across the state and nation. Presently, there are patients who need to have colonoscopy screenings, mammograms, hip replacements and other vital procedures and surgeries. We don’t want to delay any longer than necessary only to discover an urgent need that should have been addressed some time ago had we been able to do that required procedure. We all want to get back to caring for those who need us.

I hear the concern in the voices of hospital administrators on frequent calls we have with our Hospital Association, and I know the desire to safely return to serving and caring resonates with local businesses of all types. Government assistance has provided a small amount of financial relief for some of us, but certainly not for all. It has not been nearly enough for St. Luke’s to successfully close the gap of even one month’s expenses due to our services having been drastically reduced during COVID-19.

So, what do we do? Like many hospitals, St. Luke’s is participating in state and national collaboratives to discuss how we can safely reintroduce certain services. We are fortunate that our hospital building is designed in such a way that we can easily separate portions of our patient population. Our various wings create some natural physical separation, so we can severely limit traffic and flow. We are evaluating our floorplan and working to create additional processes and policies that support safety as we begin to return to offering our regular services.

We are reviewing data and recommendations from the American College of Surgeons, American Operating Room Nurses, American Society of Anesthesiology, American Medical Association and American Hospital Association to ensure we are utilizing best practices regarding the care we re-launch. And, we are watching that darn curve.

A word of caution surrounding this deliberate, methodical return to normalcy is that we model responsibility as stay home limitations are released. It is imperative that when the return begins and we are able to again enjoy dining out, going to the hair salon or attending gatherings with friends, that we remain engaged in safety and infection prevention. We don’t want to find ourselves in need of repeat restrictions.

As we go about our daily interactions, it’s important that we remain accountable by maintaining physical distance and allowing reintroduction of routine in a guarded way. It may be beneficial to start thinking now about how you will do that. You may choose to reduce the number of visits you make to stores, wash your hands more regularly and wear your mask when you go out. No doubt, some things will be different than before, but if we can partner together to keep our community safe as we get back to the things we enjoy, it will be worth it!

Until then, stay safe and healthy, and know that if you need us, we are here monitoring that darn curve and waiting to care for you.

#StLukesNCStrong

Questions or comments? Send them to Michelle.Fortune@slhnc.org.