Many Kerrville heroes are on PRMC staff

Nursing staff and infection prevention leaders at Peterson Health have nothing but high praise and compliments for the work being done every day and night by Peterson nurses and doctors under the stress of continuous wearing of “personal protection equipment” and an unrelenting stream of new patients recently.

Pam Burton and Rebekah Patterson, infection prevention director and infection prevention nurse, respectively, for Peterson Health, have been producing a daily report in conjunction with Lisa Winters, community relations, in addition to tracking the staffing and morale as the professional medical staff continues to assess and care for the suspected and confirmed cases of virus patients.

Staff morale remains high, and Nursing Supervisor Kaeli Dressler uses the word “heroes” to describe them, with pride and no hesitation.

The daily numbers related to COVID cases are now featured on the top section of the Peterson Health website homepage for review. Burton said they are updating this site each weekday after 4:30 p.m.

“Testing has increased because we now have the ability to test more,” Burton said, “and with more testing, there are more positive cases.”

Dressler added, “But also, more people are sick.”

“It’s cliché to say, but the medical staff is tired. That feels or seems a cliché, but it’s true for them. We are finally seeing here what we have seen and heard about other areas,” Dressler said. “It’s the sustained nature of it; and wondering if it’s going to get better. It’s the unending incremental changes and the ‘personal protection equipment’ availability, too. We have plans and are progressively changing them and adjusting to situations.”

The staff wears masks at all time inside the building, and eye protection if they provide patient care.

The PPE required to care for COVID patients includes, in addition to the basic “scrubs,” a gown, gloves, a special respirator, mask and face shield.

She said the patients are much more challenging to take care of because of the medical staff donning their PPE each time. And the patients are all craving human contact.

“Some staff have contracted COVID, but not from the patients. And the staff members worry about exposing their own families, while they are dealing with their kids and school and their own postponements and cancellations. But their teamwork and support for each other is exceptional,” Dressler said.

She and Burton said the staff did a lot of cross-training, to be ready to work in areas outside their usual assignments. And every day nurses ask where else they are needed, and volunteer to work extra shifts.

Burton called them “super-extraordinary” saying, “They keep putting one foot in front of the other and do the work that needs doing. Sometimes, they say, ‘Remind me what we’re doing now …”

She and Dressler said staff leaders have been listening, and reassuring and keeping tabs on everything.

Burton said, “We have great support and communication here from the very top to facilities management. We’ve all pulled together.”

Dressler said the Cardiopulmonary department has been intimately involved, because COVID attacks the lungs. And the rehabilitation and palliative care departments have many patients in their own homes, in addition to other medical workers in nursing homes.

She said conditions are different from last spring, in urban to rural areas. But medical staffs also are more experienced and they have more options than they had last spring.

She and Burton cannot say with certainty day-to-day where in Peterson Hospital the inpatients are being treated, as they are using several different areas and floors.

On Dec. 7 they had six patients in the Intensive Care Unit, and the balance were on a medical/surgical unit. Of the 56 recently reported cases, Burton and Dressler stressed that three were admitted as inpatients, and most were identified and sent home to quarantine.

“We are making constant adaptations,” they said.

Dressler said medical facilities have been testing for quite some time and in the recent past of this pandemic, people weren’t sick. That caused previous discussions among medical people about “silent positives.”

Burton said they expected to see some increases after the Thanksgiving holiday period, starting about seven to 10 days out.

Dressler acknowledged they are “experiencing increasing difficulties” now in finding places they can transfer patients to.

She said those are mainly patients that Peterson RMC does not have the services to care for, adding, “We’ve begun to experience greater difficulty in finding hospital beds in San Antonio.”

And they’ve gotten requests to send patients to Kerrville’s PRMC from Big Spring and Monahans.

“Those have been not only COVID patients. For rural areas, Peterson is the main hospital for nine surrounding counties. The further west, there are certainly fewer acute care facilities. And El Paso for several weeks was transferring patients to San Antonio.”


Burton and Dressler said Peterson Health has been approved as a vaccine provider.

What they await now is the “tier approach” to be defined by Texas’ Health and Human Services department; and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Healthcare workers will be in the first group, they expect.

Vaccinations will require two shots. One pharmaceutical company’s vaccine requires shots four week apart; and another company’s two shots three weeks apart.

“And each person must get both shots for the vaccine to be effective,” Burton said.

“We continue to see double digits, but we’re handling it. We’re in it for the long haul, “ Dressler said.

“The real heroes right now are over in Urgent Care. They’re seeing up to 80 to 90 patients per day, meeting people at their cars to assess them and call them inside for care” with two providers and two nurses plus about seven other staff members.

Dec. 7 daily report

As of Dec. 7, Peterson Health had tested 11,473 people within the health system.

Peterson Health reported 56 new positive COVID-19 patients tested over the weekend (Friday through 7 a.m. that Monday) previous to that date; so the new total as of Dec. 7 for Kerr County was 1,154.

“At this time, there are 21 patients hospitalized at Peterson Regional Medical Center with COVID-19. There is one new death being reported for Kerr County, which brings our total to 26,” the Dec. 7 report said.

Dec. 11 daily report

The daily report from Peterson Health on Friday, Dec. 11, updated those numbers as follows:

• Total tested – 11,965

• Positive cases in Kerr County – 1,253 (16 new positive cases reported)

• 23 people hospitalized

• 27 deaths.

Peterson Health continues to offer a COVID-19 hotline. The hotline is available to answer questions regarding testing for symptomatic and asymptomatic persons, those visiting loved ones in nursing homes, or those in need of testing for travel.

Area residents can call the COVID-19 hotline at (830) 896-4200, and select Option 1. This hotline is answered Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Peterson Health offers two options for COVID-19 testing and screening. For those needing testing and NOT experiencing symptoms, they may call 896-4200, Option 1, for appointments and other information pertaining to testing at the Kerrville Medical Plaza. Appointments for testing are available Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, which includes fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or running nose, diarrhea, and/or nausea and vomiting, contact or visit Peterson Urgent Care on Junction Highway by calling 258-7669.

Peterson Health’s visitation policy remains in effect, and now includes the incorporation of the medical center’s “flu visitation policy,” which does not allow persons under age 16, anyone who is sick, and anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever or chills, body aches or fatigue.

“As we continue to see a rise in COVID-19 activity, we continue to remind everyone to practice healthy and safe habits that begin with hand hygiene, and include wearing a face mask when social distancing cannot be maintained, respiratory etiquette, and keep your environment clean.”  

County reports

Kerr County’s Emergency Management Coordinator William “Dub” Thomas has returned to twice-weekly updates issued on Tuesdays and Fridays, and his statistics are based in part on the numbers from Peterson Health as well as Texas Department of State Health numbers.

Thomas’ report for Dec. 10 as released by Kerr County includes the following “takeaways:”

Kerr County is still showing a net increase of active cases, meaning the new cases are continuing to outpace recoveries.

Kerr County had its 27th fatality of a permanent resident due to the virus.

Results from the tests conducted at the Dec. 9 clinic will be announced to the public this week. Those getting the tests are notified as soon as possible if they are active or not.

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