From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Peterson Health administration and staff have stepped forward to lead the community in testing and medical treatment, setting up a dedicated call center, hosting community testing clinics and making sure proven therapeutics are available for local patients, as well as providing daily healthcare at their multiple locations for all citizens.
Peterson Regional Medical Center, Peterson Urgent Care and Peterson Medical Associates staff have cared for a steady stream of COVID patients that first peaked in the summer and tapered off in the fall.
However, since the holiday season, all areas of the Peterson Health organization have been overwhelmed with sick and frightened patients.
In 49 days, the death toll has nearly tripled, going from 21 on Dec. 1 to Monday’s total of 60. Additionally, total COVID-19 positive cases also more than doubled during the holiday season with cumulative positive cases since March adding up to 1,050 on Dec. 1 and spiking to 2,132 on Jan. 18. Hospital beds are filling with COVID-19 patients, as the daily census shows that an average of 26 coronavirus patients per day are being treated by PRMC staff, many of which have been admitted to the ICU.
In addition to managing local healthcare, Peterson Health officials have been working to ensure both therapeutics and vaccines are available locally, a daunting and ever-changing task overseen by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mack Blanton.
On Christmas Eve, Peterson Health administrators oversaw the distribution of the Moderna vaccine to 500 Peterson frontline healthcare workers.
“We could not have endured the COVID-19 challenge so far without the prayers, encouragement and support of our community,” Peterson Health President/CEO Cory Edmondson said at a recent press conference. “But, I will be honest with you. The frontline fight is taking its toll.”
In the midst of all of the exhaustive effort, Edmondson said staff are still “smiling behind their masks.”
Last week, Peterson Health staff had several exciting things to smile about, offering a brief respite from the strain and stress caused by the surging pandemic.
At the beginning of the week, Edmondson sent out an internal memo praising staff on recently announced accolades earned during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Did you know, in December, one of the most intense months of the year since COVID-19 hit, our hospital, nurses and physicians rated in the top percentile in multiple areas when surveyed about patient experience?” Edmondson told his staff.
He went on to explain that when asked “How would you rate our hospital?” PRMC ranked in the 97th percentile of all hospitals surveyed. In addition, 99 of 100 people surveyed indicated they would “recommend” PRMC to others.
With regard to the nursing staff, Edmondson reported that patients surveyed ranked nursing staff in the 93rd, 90th and 96th percentile in communication, treatment and listening categories, respectively.
Patients surveyed described physicians at PRMC as being good communicators, treating patients with courtesy and respect, as well as listening to their patients, with marks in the 94, 94 and 93 percentiles, respectively
“I’ll be honest, when I make rounds throughout the hospital and our other facilities and witness first-hand what our staff is experiencing, it moves me greatly,” Edmondson said. “For Peterson Health to continue to meet the needs of our patients, day in and day out with such commitment, compassion and dedication is unprecedented and cause for celebration.”
As a “thank you,” Edmondson announced a celebratory lunch for the staff of both day and night shifts on Tuesday.
The happy news continued, as Schreiner University hosted an appreciation event to all staff, at all locations and all shifts, providing lunch food trucks by local vendors on Thursday and Friday.
It was a party atmosphere as Peterson Health officials played festive music in the courtyard and staffers exited the building briefly to grab their catered lunch.
Schreiner University President Dr. Charlie McCormick credited the staff at Peterson Health for allowing students to return to campus in the Fall and wanted to show appreciation.
“I believe that Schreiner University’s ability to hold an on-campus semester in the fall and our intention to hold an on-campus semester this spring are only possible because of the extraordinary partnership with Peterson Health, which has staffed our on-campus clinic, provided the majority of our COVID testing and given us essential counsel as to how best mitigate the impact of the virus,” McCormick said.
McCormick and his staff created a vinyl “Thank You” banner and posted appreciation notices throughout the hospital.
“I wish Schreiner could offer a proportional service to our friends at Peterson, but they are the experts and the frontline workers who must manage the worst parts of this crisis for us,” McCormick said. “We can only show them our thanks right now with a lunch, but because of the work they’re doing today, we can turn our attention back to training the nurses and doctors and Peterson Health employees of tomorrow.”
The heartfelt gesture on behalf of Schreiner University seemed to move the Peterson Health staff, as they smiled a bit more, gathered in the sunshine and took time to write notes of appreciation to McCormick and his staff.
“You have completely lifted our spirits,” Jane Harris wrote.
Candace said, “Thank you very much. We are blessed.”
As Edmondson entered the courtyard, he took a moment to take in the sight, lingering a bit to enjoy the atmosphere.
“The kindness shown to us by Schreiner University today is something we will remember for a long time,” Edmondson said. “Timing is perfect and something I think our staff really needed and earned. We are truly grateful.”
While there is no way to predict the future and lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, Edmondson said he and his staff are committed to “managing COVID-19 and not letting COVID-19 manage us” while continuing to provide compassionate care to the citizens of Kerrville and surrounding areas.