Hospital CEOs pen letter to communities about COVID

By Beth Sergent - [email protected]

GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Unprecedented times can warrant an unprecedented response.

A letter to local communities was recently, jointly issued by leadership from nine hospitals/health systems, asking for help from those communities in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Signing off on the letter were CEOs and/or presidents from Holzer Health System, OhioHealth (including O’Bleness and Berger hospitals), Hocking Valley Community Hospital, Memorial Health System, Adena Health System, Fairfield Medical Center, Madison Health and Southern Ohio Medical Center.

“For the first time, the local health systems across Athens, Fairfield, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Madison, Mason (West Virginia), Meigs, Noble, Pickaway, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Washington counties are coming together to ask for your help,” stated the letter.

The letter addresses the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, adding, “…our hospitals, emergency departments, and urgent cares are hitting record numbers. Many of the patients requiring hospitalization are experiencing a higher degree of illness than we have seen in the past, this is taking a toll on our associates. We are concerned with what the coming weeks will bring, we want to continue to provide the care our patients need, and when they need it.

“What we are experiencing is very real. It isn’t a political issue; it’s a medical issue. When we look at our patient data, the vast majority of hospitalized COVID patients have not received the COVID vaccine.

“COVID does not discriminate. It impacts all ages, races and sexes. This virus will spread – even to those who are healthy. We do have ways to reduce exposure to COVID and brace against a full-blown infection. You can use a mask and if you are 12 and older, get vaccinated.”

The letter also states, “Help us change the trajectory of COVID-19 for our communities by protecting yourself and your loved ones. By masking and becoming fully vaccinated, we will be able to drastically slow down the rate of spread and ultimately COVID’s potential exposure to you.”

Holzer CEO and President, Dr. Michael Canady, MD, FACHE, FACS, who was one of the nine healthcare leaders who signed the letter, spoke with Ohio Valley Publishing (OVP) on Aug. 27, regarding the rise in cases, as well as the effect on staffing and a revised visitor’s policy to mitigate exposure. At that time, Canady estimated the hospital could care for a maximum of 25 COVID-19 patients and there were approximately 16-18 COVID-19 patients in the facility, down from 23. Canady also estimated the maximum amount of COVID-19 patients the hospital had ever treated in the Gallipolis hospital was 43, which occurred this past January.

However, as of Tuesday morning, Holzer reported to OVP it was currently treating 31 COVID-19 patients at the Gallipolis facility.

Also on Tuesday, Holzer concurred via a statement, that this was a “fluid” situation and the health system had been “making adjustments as we can with the current demand” regarding the care of an increasing amount of COVID-19 patients.

Holzer further addressed those adjustments with the following statement:

“We are utilizing two inpatient units as well as our Intensive Care Unit for these individuals. In addition to treating patients in the hospital, we offer a COVID-at-home program, which allows patients who are able to stay in their home and receive Home Health services to manage their COVID care. This is an option to help us care for the increasing amount of COVID positive patients in our communities.”

During last month’s conversation with OVP, Canady stated the COVID patients Holzer was seeing, were “almost without exception” patients who are not vaccinated. Canady also stated there have also been a few fully vaccinated patients with COVID but “they are the exception, not the rule.”

The difference between previous surges of the virus and this latest round, in regards to area patients, is the fact “it is affecting young people,” Canady said.

“They are younger, sicker and requiring more care compared to the high numbers we had last winter,” Canady said, explaining the biggest factor is those patients are generally unvaccinated.

“This has been an issue of the unvaccinated since the beginning [of the pandemic],” he said.

The jointly released letter to their communities from the CEOs of nine health systems/hospitals also stated the following:

“Our communities have experienced so much loss due to COVID. As our teams console families who have lost loved ones, we have heard many say – ‘we never expected COVID to create such heartache and loss.’ Sadly, this loss has moved some to become vaccinated themselves.

“Historically our respective county residents have banded together during times of struggle. That’s what we love about the resiliency and grit. Whether it was a fire, tornado, or flood, you have stepped up to support one another in times of crisis. We ask that you do that again. Our communities are in crisis. We ask that you rally together and extend grace instead of being divided.

“The leaders of your community hospital are joining hands to fight for our community’s health. Please join us for the betterment of your loved ones and our communities.”

The letter was signed by:

Michael Canady, President & CEO, Holzer Health System;

J. Scott Cantley, President & CEO, Memorial Health System;

Tim Colburn President & CEO, OhioHealth Berger Hospital;

Dana Engle, CEO, Madison Health;

Stacey Gabriel, President & CEO, Hocking Valley Community Hospital;

Jeff Graham, President & CEO, Adena Health System;

Ben Gill, President & CEO, Southern Ohio Medical Center;

LeeAnn Helber, President, OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital;

John R. “Jack” Janoso, President & CEO, Fairfield Medical Center.

© 2021 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.

By Beth Sergent

[email protected]

Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.

Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.