Persevering this winter’s virus surge together (Opinion)

Julie Clayton
Guest column


We cannot turn on the news, surf the web or walk down the street without constant reminders that we, along with the rest of the world, are battling a virus that has already taken a huge toll on our lives. No one has been immune to the impacts of this virus.

It has been a long nine months. We’ve endured the first waves of COVID-19 patients alongside shifting rules, regulations and shut down orders. Now, with a vaccine on the horizon there is an end in sight. It is tempting to relax, especially with the holiday season upon us, but it’s more important than ever to remain diligent in our efforts to contain the growing spread of COVID-19 within our community.

While Barton Health has been able to balance a fluctuating number of coronavirus patients in its hospital while treating a climbing number of positive cases in the community, hospitals all around us – including large, regional medical centers – are facing challenges.

In Reno, Renown saw its COVID-19 patient census rise from about 40 to more than 180 – some of whom were admitted into the hospital’s overflow patient care area built inside a converted parking garage. As regional hospitals become impacted it creates challenges in our ability to transfer patients who may need specialized treatment at a higher level care facility. This is resulting in Barton treating more COVID patients who need higher levels of care and therefore require more attention and resources.

Like Renown, many hospitals in both California and Nevada are reaching capacity of their ICU beds resulting in Gov. Gavin Newsom using this criteria as a key trigger for imposing additional restrictions. Retaining enough healthy staff to care for the growing number of very sick patients has become a key challenge. This is an addition to patients who continue to need care for other non-COVID illnesses and injuries.

Barton, like many hospitals in the nation right now, has had to be creative to continue to ensure appropriate staffing levels. We’ve offered pay incentives for additional shifts and overtime to current team members; we are working with agencies to secure traveling nurses; and we have received assistance from the state through the National Guard medical strike teams helping to fill gaps.

Barton developed its Pandemic Response Plan in spring 2020, and we are facing each one of these challenges head on. Our staff is committed and working tirelessly to care for patients. We will continue to do so, and are confident we will bridge the gap between this last wave of the pandemic and the vaccine becoming widely available and distributed. While we are all fatigued by these restrictions, we just have to hang in there a little longer.

During this last wave, we ask our community to remain committed to keeping yourselves, your loved ones and the healthcare workers caring for our community safe by wearing a mask, keeping six feet physical distance, minimizing indoor gatherings with those outside of your household, and staying home if you are sick. We are close to the end and together we can do this.

Barton continues to be here to care for you and your families. If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, even mildly, please call the COVID-19 Health Line at 530-600-1999.

I’m wishing you and your family a safe and happy holiday season.

Julie Clayton, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, is chief nursing officer at Barton Health.


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