‘It’s bad’: Hospital staff weigh in on morale amid the COVID-19 surge

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ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar)- Officials with Medical Center Hospital and Odessa Regional Medical Center hosted a news conference Thursday to update the community on their responses to the surge in patients hospitalized with coronavirus. 

The resounding theme among hospital staff is one of exhaustion and low morale. 

“It’s bad,” said MCH spokesperson Trevor Tankersley. 

Chief Nursing Officer Christin Timmons echoed that sentiment, saying her nursing staff is feeling overwhelmed, tired, and anxious. 

“Many of the staff will tear up as you talk to them about what they’re doing and what they’re seeing. They’ve just been pushed way beyond the point of breaking. They are committed to what they do as well as the patients they care for, that’s what they went to school for, whether you’re a physician or in nursing or respiratory, they’re there to care for people and that’s why they keep coming to work every day, but they also just don’t know how much they can take anymore,” Timmons said. “Their jobs stink right now. This is not what we went to school for. We went to school to care for people, heal them, and send them home. We didn’t go to school to bury every fifth person we laid our hands on.”

Dr. Rohith Saravanan, Chief Medical Officer for ORMC said the surge in hospitalizations and staffing issues aren’t the only things causing low morale, but also, the unwillingness of some to get vaccinated. Even though the vaccine may not prevent infection amid the Delta variant, doctors say the vaccine does help prevent serious illness and hospitalization. 

“Previously, the healthcare community felt strongly about being there to take care of patients in our community that had no way to protect themselves. Now, this is almost voluntary, not allowing yourself to be protected. The morale in the healthcare community is going to be very different. There is a way you can prevent this. Nobody wants to go through this again, we’re hoping you will do your part,” Saravanan said. 

Saravanan said he received an email just minutes before the news conference from a staff member on the nursing floor which highlighted three things nursing staff are feeling. 

“‘Defeated. I thought we were winning, but now it’s back with a vengeance. Angry. We have tools to fight it, but there are several people in the community that are fighting against our tools. Depressed. It’s now affecting those that are too young to even get the vaccine. Those are victims in this fight against COVID,'” Saravanan read form the email. 

Doctors say, the best way to protect yourself, and avoid hospitalization, is to get vaccinated. And they are still advocating strongly for those vaccines. Especially since projections show hospitals in both Midland and Odessa, or Trauma Service Area J, can expect to see a sharp, continuous rise in hospitalizations through September. 

“Think about those graphs, the line is now steeper and higher than in previous surges, so if it continues the way it does, it will be worse than the previous surges,” Saravanan said.

MCH President and CEO Russell Tippin said the latest data shows hospitals in our trauma area may see more than three hundred patients in the ICU for COVID-19 in the next 10 to 20 days. 

As of Friday, MCH reported it is caring for 70 patients with the virus, 21 of those are on a ventilator. The patients range in age from 19 to 96. 

Thursday, a spokesperson from ORMC said her campus is caring for 21 patients, one of those is on a ventilator. In Big Spring, Scenic Mountain Medical Center had 14 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday. 

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