By Jeff Barnhart, CEO

Printed in the Hereford Brand May 16, 2020

This is the last day of Hospital Week, a week set aside each May to honor hospitals and, more importantly, the people who provide care and comfort in them every day. It follows on the heels of Nurses Week, which is appropriate because without our nurses, we would have no hospital or clinic. As the CEO of Hereford Regional Medical Center and Hereford Health Clinic and a part of the health care industry for more than 25 years, I’ve always had the deepest respect for the work nurses do, but that respect and appreciation has grown exponentially since COVID-19 erupted.

These brave men and women have come to the hospital every day, even as their friends, families and co-workers were told to stay home to protect themselves. They have tested more than 600 members of our community for the virus, provided life saving care for our patients hospitalized with serious symptoms and kept the hospital running for the patients who need our services for other conditions, including those in labor, needing emergent surgeries and requiring regular check ups to manage chronic conditions.

At HRMC, we have a critical care nurse with decades of experience in some of the most intense and complex care environments who also serves as our infection control expert. With COVID-19, that role became even more critical. She implemented rigorous screening and testing protocols designed to ensure that every HRMC employee has information and tools needed to keep themselves, their families and our patients safe. Any employee experiencing any symptom of illness is instructed to go home to self isolate and to look after themselves and to prevent any potential spread. Employees are tested according to the same criteria we apply to the public: experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, such as fatigue, fever or cough, or known exposure to someone with the virus.

Within our hospital, since the early days of the outbreak, we implemented strict policies to limit exposure:

  1. Patients are asked to come alone to appointments, with very few exceptions allowed.
  2. Access to the hospital is restricted to a single entrance.
  3. Employee travel is prohibited.
  4. Community events are canceled.
  5. Masks must be worn.

These policies remain in place. Some have questioned this decision, and my answer every time is the same. This virus is still here. The number of positive cases is increasing. My staff is still caring for patients with COVID-19. Everyone likely knows at least one person who has contracted this virus.

COVID-19 is a formidable enemy. We must continue to be vigilant and exercise a high degree of personal responsibility to do what we can to reduce viral spread. The disruption brought on by this pandemic to everyone’s daily lives is massive. I wish it would come to an end and that life as we knew it in January could return. Until there is a vaccine and/or a cure, however, we must work and live differently because of the virus’ presence. Without mass testing and tracking, we will continue to have challenges associated with the pressing need for re opening businesses and resuming group activities. With intelligent decisions and appropriate caution, however, we can take some control over what our new normal looks like.