By Dr. David Tam
There’s one thing I learned when I was practicing medicine – an illness impacting a patient doesn’t always follow the path the textbooks taught us. Treating diseases can often take twists and turns because every person is different, and each body responds differently to the therapies we learned in medical training. As a physician, you to learn how to use sound judgment as well as what’s in journals and constantly be ready to adjust your treatment regimen and making decisions on what is best for the patient and family.
Sitting in my office this weekend, I reflected on where we are now as a community during this most recent surge, and how the lessons from years of practicing medicine are shaping how Beebe Healthcare has made difficult choices throughout the pandemic to care for our patients and the community.
A Commitment to Community
Beebe has worked tirelessly to combat the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 19 months. We have followed the science and used treatments that have been investigated and authorized for patients infected by this horrible disease. We have adjusted our procedures to provide the very best and up-to-date treatment for COVID-19, including the use of monoclonal antibodies, remdesivir, and plasma infusions, as well optimal positioning for patients who are intubated or on a vapotherm device. And we did everything in our power to provide the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) our staff needed to keep safe while taking care of patients.
As Sussex County’s local healthcare resource, Beebe has also been focused on keeping our community as safe and healthy as possible. We stood up multiple mobile and clinic-based testing sites because understanding the present spread of COVID-19 was, and still is, vital in the fight against the spread of this pandemic. Thanks to the support of our community of donors, Beebe was one of the first community hospitals to acquire in-house PCR testing capability to rapidly test patients being admitted or scheduled for surgical procedures.
We also swiftly engaged with the community to get the vaccine out to people as soon as it was available, offering it to everyone in the community rather than just to Beebe patients – because that’s what a local health system does. Beebe even partnered with Sussex County EMS and the library system to create a mobile vaccination clinic using the Bookmobile, taking the fight to areas where people struggled to get to a vaccine site.
And it wasn’t just about “medicine.” As the community’s health system, Beebe reached out to the local towns and business organizations to do everything possible to support their continued, safe operations during the pandemic – working with restaurants, schools, gyms and yoga studios, other local merchants, poultry plants, and many towns. Beebe did this because the scope of a local nonprofit independent community health system goes beyond medical care delivered within the walls of our hospitals and clinics – we serve the needs of the entire community as best as possible whenever and wherever its needed.
Making Difficult Decisions with You
And so, as all of us were enjoying some relief this past summer with vaccinations in arms and gorgeous weather beckoning, COVID-19 did what diseases do well – it shifted and introduced the Delta variant to the world. We have learned that the Delta variant is more contagious than past COVID-19 versions. Although the current vaccines appeared to continue protecting people against getting severely ill with COVID-19, the Delta variant has been devastating for people who have not been vaccinated.
Beebe Healthcare, along with the rest of the nation, reacted to the uptick in the number of COVID-19 patients needing hospital and outpatient care. We experienced a very high volume of patients coming to our clinics, emergency departments, and being admitted. And not just COVID-19 patients, but others with serious medical problems like heart attacks and strokes were being cared for by the incredibly heroic team of medical professionals. And Beebe, like other health systems in Delaware and the United States, had to react to ensure that we provided the best possible care for our patients.
Responding to the significant increase in patient numbers, Beebe made the difficult decision on Sept. 14 to postpone elective surgeries temporarily to ensure that we could provide quality and safe care for those at the Lewes Campus. Beebe recognizes that elective does not mean unnecessary and that this creates challenges and hardships for those scheduled for procedures. My leadership team, working in concert with our medical staff, continues to use their best clinical judgment to continue some elective procedures where possible. At this time, we continue to perform procedures as scheduled at our Outpatient Surgery Center on Route 24.
Medical decisions are often not easy – and the Delta variant surge has required us to make decisions that are difficult and painful. But our commitment to the community’s health is steadfast, and we needed to do what was in the best interest for our patients and team members.
Together, We Can Prevail
So why are we, as a community, here in this part of the pandemic? It’s not for me or Beebe to assign blame. We are here – and will be here – to continue to do our very best to care for every patient that comes through our doors.
That’s the oath we took and stand by to care for this community – respective of the equal worth of all individuals, inclusive of race, nationality, gender, belief, sexuality, mental health, age, ability or social background. This includes providing care regardless of vaccination status.
So now I ask for this wonderful community’s help once more.
Please consider getting vaccinated if you are not already.
If you are, thank you. But everyone should please consider continuing wearing a mask indoors or in large crowds as we battle this surge.
We understand that there is always hesitancy. We understand that there will always be misinformation – and we have actively sought to answer questions based on the best medical data. We can unequivocally say that we stand behind the science of the COVID vaccine and its vital role in helping prevent serious illness and furthering our goal of ending the pandemic. There is so much data and science that supports the vaccines.
But on a human level, please consider getting vaccinated for your loved one or neighbor who can’t receive their elective surgery right now. Or consider the vaccine so that our nursing staff and medical staff doesn’t have to intubate another person or be the person holding their hand as their family says goodbye.
Your encouragement, support, and understanding are needed now more than ever as I think about the toll of trauma on those who have worked so valiantly in healthcare for almost two years. I am proud to walk through the halls of Beebe every day and support this incredible team. Thank you for the trust you place in Beebe Healthcare, Sussex County’s local nonprofit independent community health system.