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'Stress and exhaustion': Stillwater Medical Center prepares for rising COVID-19 cases

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As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the stress on medical facilities and hospitals does too. The O'Colly recently interviewed Joy Haken, an employee at Stillwater Medical Center, about the current situation there:

Q: What’s the level of stress like as cases have been beginning to rise in the country?

As COVID-19 cases rise, so does the level of stress and exhaustion for our healthcare providers. Our most precious resource in our health-care system isn’t a miracle drug, it’s our amazing team of healthcare providers, from the housekeepers to the physicians. They continue to work day after day, many of them without a break since the pandemic started in March. Our team is dedicated to providing excellent care and that come at a price, many are exhausted and need the community to understand that what they do effects so much more than just them. COVID-19 is a new illness that requires extensive education, updated personal protective equipment requirements, increased ventilation considerations and additional resources. Add all this to an increased patient load and you can understand why the stress levels are high in all healthcare workers

Q: What’s going to be the scene looking like over the holidays at the medical center?

As with all facilities around the State, healthcare systems cannot continue to operate as they are right now. Healthcare systems are overwhelmed with multiple patients needing ICU care, with patients on gurneys in hallways, and not enough ventilators or other high flow oxygen devices. Dialysis, a huge concern for all area hospitals, is a specialized service that is only offered at a limited number of facilities and they are not able to accommodate all the patients needing dialysis (or nephrology care) right now due to COVID-19. We are feeling the pressure of Thanksgiving gatherings, with a marked increase in cases needing admission. It is imperative that extended families and friends do not gather for Christmas and New Year’s. It will be devastating to your local healthcare systems and providers, not to mention the illness and deaths it may cause in your own family and friends.

Q: What’s the age range of patients you’ve seen the most?

The statistics for the state according to the OSDH website are:

18-35 year olds have the highest number of total cases by age group.

36-49 year olds have the second highest number of total cases.

Q: What do you recommend to people over the holidays to do (or not do?)

In accordance with the CDC, Holiday celebrations will likely need to be different this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Avoid activities that are higher risk for spread. Consider fun alternatives that pose lower risk of spreading COVID-19. While we understand the urge for everyone to see family, there are ways you can do so without putting your loved ones at risk. As our hospitals all across the state continue to surge, please consider all of your options this holiday season. Some of our favorite suggestions include:

Host a virtual meal with friends and family who don’t live with you. Have people share recipes and show their turkey, dressing or other dishes they prepared.

Safely prepare traditional holiday dishes or treats and deliver them to family and neighbors. This can be implemented in a way that does not involve contact with others. (For example, by leaving them on the porch).

If you do decide to join others outside your household, wear a mask (over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin). Make sure it fits snugly against the sides of your face. Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you. Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread COVID-19 or flu. Keeping about 2 arm lengths away is especially important for people who are high risk. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Keep hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) with you and use it when you are unable to wash with soap and water.