Letter to Our Community (3/22/21)
One year ago today, on March 22, 2020, Lake Regional admitted its first COVID-19 positive patient. To say a lot has happened since that day is clearly an understatement.
During the past 12 months, health care providers have had to meet what we hope is a once-in-a-lifetime challenge to rapidly develop testing, treatments and vaccine for a deadly airborne virus.
Along the way our team has mourned losses together – loss of certain social freedoms and connectedness, and loss of life. To date, 89 COVID-positive inpatients have passed away in our care.
Lake Regional never laid off or furloughed employees, but many accepted new assignments, such as screening patients at the door or ensuring the safety of coworkers by helping them put on or remove personal protective equipment. I’m proud of the way our team stayed strong during those difficult times.
We’ve also celebrated successes. Since last March, our hospital team has pulled together in dramatic fashion to care for more than 400 COVID-positive inpatients, nearly half of whom required ICU admissions. Throughout that time, we were buoyed by tremendous community support.
Our Laboratory, Emergency Department and Express Care teams rapidly met the challenge of providing testing for our community. In the beginning, we offered only drive-thru options; now testing is available on a walk-in basis at Lake Regional Express Care. More than 20,000 tests have been administered by our health system to-date.
Our clinics quickly ramped up their capacity to offer virtual visits for patients who needed to remain home for their safety or the safety of others. Nearly 7,000 virtual visits have been conducted since March 2020, and this convenient service will continue to be available to our patients.
After the spring wave of hospitalizations last year, we experienced a relatively quiet summer followed by an extraordinarily challenging fall. From October to December, our daily census of COVID-positive patients rarely fell below 20. As I said in our December letter to the community, our caregivers felt the burden of loss and it was a heavy toll.
Then, the tide began to turn. Lake Regional employees started receiving COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 21, 2020. During the past three months, Lake Regional has administered nearly 14,000 total doses of vaccine, including primary and secondary doses. Other community health care providers have been doing this important work, as well. Together, we are bending the COVID curve.
The number of people in our community who have been vaccinated is increasing, and positivity rates are dropping, along with hospitalizations. Camden County’s 7 day positivity rate was 6.1% compared to a state rate of 4.1% as of March 22. Currently, Lake Regional has one positive inpatient after several weeks of the COVID census hovering at either zero or one.
Here’s more good news. We just learned that Lake Regional has been selected by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to receive 500 primary doses of vaccine per week. This confirmation of a steady-stream of vaccine will help us meet the next challenge of vaccinating additional groups as they become eligible. (Visit mostopscovid.com to learn more about vaccine eligibility.)
Now, as we pass the one-year mark in this pandemic marathon, we are looking forward to spring and a season of rebirth. Our health care providers know what’s required and remain cautiously optimistic.
Please help us by doing your part. Mark your calendar for when you become eligible to receive the vaccine and contact your primary care provider to schedule a vaccination appointment. If you don’t have a primary care provider, contact a nearby Lake Regional clinic. You also can register for the state’s Navigator tool at mostopscovid.com.
I’ll close this letter where we began a year ago. As I said about Lake Regional in March 22, 2020, we’re all-in — more than 1,500 of us — doctors, nurses, employees, working together to see this through. As always, you can count on us.
Our Commitment Runs Deep,
Dane W. Henry, FACHE