Hon­or hard work­ing health care work­ers by get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed, boosted

January 19, 2022

The holiday season is behind us and as is customary, we all reflect on how thankful we are for the many blessings in our lives. We look to the new year to bring about hope and we resolve to bring about positive change. Unfortunately, the beginning of 2022 is proving to be as challenging as 2021 and 2020. However, we are resolute in our convictions as this community’s hospital to continue to provide quality healthcare during exceedingly challenging times.

As I write this letter, Onslow Memorial Hospital’s COVID + census has increased 55% from just seven days ago. We currently have 10 patients in our 12-bed ICU with 6 COVID + patients, 2 of whom are on life-sustaining ventilators. Onslow Memorial Hospital has 91 teammates out with COVID or COVID-related issues. This creates a tremendous strain on our ability to provide quality care to our patients but we are coping by flexing staff ratios, bringing nurses from other areas to float to those areas of need, and canceling elective surgeries.

We anticipate that we will see yet another surge in our community by the end of January / first few weeks in February and these numbers will continue to climb, exponentially. Presumably, these increases are as a result of the omicron variant, which is much more highly transmissible than the delta variant. The anticipated strain on our community’s hospital will challenge our resources beyond typical limits. We are currently taking every precaution and surge planning to brace for the inevitable. With previous surges, we have had ICU overflow to other areas of the hospital for care by ICU competent nursing staff outside of the ICU’s four walls. We anticipate that this may occur again. We can assure you we will do whatever is necessary to competently and safely provide care to our community but, there are things the community can do to ensure that we all remain safe and that ensures that our hospital is supported as we provide care.

I write the community at large today to encourage everyone to honor the hard work of every healthcare worker at Onslow Memorial Hospital and in Onslow County, the Onslow County Health Department, EMS, First Responders by being vaccinated and receiving your boosters. While we have learned that being vaccinated may not protect you from being infected with COVID-19, we have also learned that it is more likely that if you receive the vaccine you will experience less severe symptoms and will be less likely to be hospitalized. In fact, 90% of the hospitalized patients at OMH are unvaccinated at this time.

If you haven’t already, visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vac... to find a vaccine site or https://takemyshot.nc.gov/ to schedule a vaccine. Additionally, if you do not have symptoms or have mild symptoms, but feel you need to be tested, visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/abo... to find an appropriate testing site for you. Our Emergency Department is not a COVID-19 Testing or Vaccination Site. Our Emergency Department is experiencing extremely high patient volumes, resulting in long waits for those who are there to be tested and potentially causing delays for those who need to be seen more urgently for significant medical issues.

We are grateful for the many Onslow County leaders who have made, and will continue to make, decisions for the safety of our community. We ask you to help by being responsible for your own health and wellness. We value and appreciate your support. Be assured that OMH staff, medical staff, board and leadership remain resolute in their steadfast determination to provide the care to our community under all circumstances. Lastly, I ask that you join me in thanking our healthcare workers and physicians for the many sacrifices they continue to make in the most challenging of environments to serve the healthcare needs of our community.

Together, we are One Great Team.

Penney Burlingame Deal, DHA, RN, FACHE, is president and CEO of Onslow Memorial Hospital.

This opinion piece was published in the Jacksonville Daily News on January 19, 2022.