By Ken Johnson, President and CEO of Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System.
December 16 will be remembered as a noteworthy and historic day in the history of Hutchinson healthcare when Kristy Sourk, a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Hutchinson Regional Medical Center (HRMC) became the first person in Reno County to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
To quote England’s World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the event seemed like the “beginning of the end” of a Pandemic that has overwhelmed the world for most of 2020. The Moderna vaccine is approved and will allow more frontline workers to be vaccinated before the end of the year. Other vaccines are in the final stages of approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Peggy Noonan, in a column penned for the December 19 edition of the Wall Street Journal, expressed gratitude on behalf of a grateful nation regarding the speed used by the pharmaceutical companies to develop the vaccines. “All this was done against the odds, again scientific history—no vaccine had ever been developed and produced so quickly—and by a country battered by illness. People slept in their offices to get this thing done. The ability of drug companies to shift focus, reorient research and development, race for an answer—all this is a triumph of medical science, of manufacture and distribution. They retrofitted factories to ensure manufacturing capacity even before the Food and Drug Administration approved the inoculations. The sheer scientific brain power involved, the level of organization demanded, all came at record speed.”
Unprecedented is a word not often spoken in the English language until this year when it was needed to describe a healthcare crisis not seen in a century. No part of our normal routine of living has been spared, but along the way we have learned a great deal. To say that we are all affected by COVID-19 fatigue would be an understatement.
Amy Haneline, writing for USA Today, recently wrote a story on good things that happened in our country during 2020, several of which deserves repeating:
–Drive-in movie theaters made a comeback as a new form of entertainment. And, come to think of it, drive-in concerts are fun too.
—People nationwide brushed up on their sewing skills, making masks for those who need them the most.
—Distilleries switched gears and used its expertise to produce hand sanitizers.
—Who would have thought 3M and Apple would become major mask manufacturers but they did?
—Health Care workers were looked upon as essential workers and also heroes.
—Communications took new meaning thanks to Zoom which provided a means for everything from business meetings to weddings, family reunions and funerals.
—Virtual high school and college commencements caught on. And, celebrities from formers presidents to movie stars showed up unexpectedly to give uplifting addresses.
Throughout this pandemic response, we’ve been blessed with extraordinary efforts by our team members at Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System. Tremendous examples of teamwork happen daily. In addition, the collaboration within the medical community of Hutchinson has been remarkable and I feel confident it has resulted in lives saved.
The examples of going above and beyond the call of duty are too many to mention, but below are a few examples that come to mind:
—A staff member of Horizons Mental Health Center volunteered her time to assist in the hospital’s Emergency Department.
—The surgery team pitched in to help on the floors and in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
—All units and entities helped to man the entrances and screening desks so we could resume some semblance of normalcy and allow family visits with patients.
—Health-E-Quip worked closely with the Kansas Department of Corrections for oxygen needs so that inmates would not have to be admitted to the hospital.
As we prepare to end a difficult year and start a new one, the vaccines offer hope for better times, but declaring total victory over this deadly virus is premature. A dose of caution when interacting with other persons in the next few weeks and months may hasten the day when we can return to a new sense of normalcy.
Hopefully, the 2021 holiday season will be a time for a return to large family gatherings and travel across the nation for football bowl games, surfing the beaches and enjoying a lifestyle we Americans are so accustomed to. Let’s all pitch in to finish the task at hand sooner rather than later.
Speaking for the Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System (HRHS) family, we extend our best wishes for a happy holiday season. It has been an honor to serve this area with compassionate care during 2020 and we look forward to continuing in the coming year.