Hospital Week – always the second week of May – takes on a special meaning this year as health care workers across the nation and here on Delmarva find themselves caring for patients in the midst of the first pandemic in just over a century. This year, University of Maryland Medical System elected to fold Nurses Week, May 6-12, and Hospital Week, May 10-16, into a single celebration of Health Care Heroes Week. As chairman of the UM Shore Regional Health Board of Directors, and on behalf of the entire board, I’d like to commend all our team members who certainly deserve this special recognition.
In the past several weeks, I have had the privilege of witnessing the amazing dedication, professionalism, creativity and teamwork of the UM SRH workforce as they navigate the extraordinary challenges posed by COVID-19. Working with the guidance and support of University of Maryland Medical System and in cooperation with the emergency operations teams of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties, the UM SRH Incident Command Structure (ICS) – a broad team including physician and nurse leaders, and directors and managers in several key areas — has done a masterful job of preparing for the possibility of a surge in COVID-19 patients. We are now prepared for twice our normal, total bed capacity between our three hospitals, and quadruple the number of intensive care beds.
For frontline workers and also those behind the scenes, each day brings new demands and parameters in providing safe, effective care to both COVID and non-COVID patients. There is no “business as usual” in our hospitals, and in most areas, these essential workers assume some degree of personal risk — and in many cases, greater stress and fatigue.
I am grateful that even before Health Care Heroes Week was declared, our local communities – including individuals, businesses, churches, civic groups and more – have been treating Shore health care workers and first responders throughout the region as heroes. Donations of meals, snacks, treats and much-needed supplies have poured in from all quarters, week after week.
In turn, UM Shore Regional Health is giving back to our communities with a $5,000 gift to the Maryland Food Bank, designated to the outlets serving our five-county region. It is both amazing and gratifying to me that our hard-working heroes at Shore have followed suit by launching their own collection drive this month to benefit local food banks. We are truly “in this together” as we all pitch in wherever help is needed.
We have lost members of our community to COVID-19, and every loss is hard to bear not only for loved ones and friends, but also for UM SRH frontline team members working so hard to save every life. Mercifully, so far, many of our patients have survived COVID-19, and every patient who recovers enough to go home is a cause for celebration.
For now, each of us can support the health care heroes who made those recoveries possible by following guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 – wearing our masks, washing our hands and maintaining our “social distance” as long as needed. UMMS offers excellent resources for anyone seeking more information about COVID-19 and what to do if you suspect that you or a family member may have contracted the disease. Visit https://www.umms.org/coronavirus or call the 24-7 nurse hotline, 1-888-713-0711. And please, be safe.
Keith McMahan is chairman of the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health Board of Directors.