March 20: An open letter to our community
From Cheryl Wolfe, RN, President and CEO of Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics
Each day, the news about the coronavirus’ impact on our community and our country is more sobering. We have entered a stark, new reality that is impacting our daily lives in ways many of us have never before experienced. Just last week, events and institutions we usually take for granted were cancelled or closed. This week, cities and states around the country are asking residents to shelter in place.
Earlier this week, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, which represents all 62 hospitals in our state, strongly advised Governor Brown to issue a statewide shelter in place. Data published this morning indicates the curve may be flattening, but this is misleading. Without adequate testing, it is impossible for us to know who has the virus; or where and for how long they’ve exposed others. As a registered nurse for 46 years, I want to assure you that sheltering at home — while extreme — is critical. There is an urgent, painful need for social distancing and half-measures will not do enough to stop the spread of this virus.
Our top priority is to provide care now and as the crisis worsens. In order to do this, we must keep our essential health care workers healthy and at work. Please help us by staying at home. While there, remember to still maintain a distance of six feet from other people, especially if you are not feeling well. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 30 seconds. These are not new tips. You have heard them before, but strict adherence will save lives.
Though this situation may be unprecedented, this is not the first time the team at Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics has provided care during adversity. We have been planning since December and the attention of every employee is laser focused on protecting the safety of our patients, employees, providers and our community at large.
Here are some of the ways we are working to meet patient needs while reducing the rate of infection.
- Strict visitor restrictions. Please, only patients in need of care at the hospital at this time. Everyone who enters our buildings, employees and providers included, will be screened for symptoms.
- All non-urgent, outpatient visits will move to video or telephone visits. Your provider will make a determination whether or not you need to be seen in person.
- Non-urgent, elective surgeries are postponed for the time being.
- For staff whose jobs allow, they are working remotely, in order to limit exposure.
I know you are looking to the medical community for guidance, for compassion and for the highest level of care. I want to reassure you the employees of Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics are here for you. We will continue to be here for our community. Even if you just have questions, call our community hotline at 503-814-1970 to speak with a health educator.
Finally, I want to encourage you to look out for yourself and others. Practice self-care by exercising and eating right. Use virtual or telephonic methods to reach out to those around you, ask them how they are doing, and tell them what you are feeling. We need each other now more than ever. Don’t be afraid to look to your friends and neighbors for support. We aren’t meant to do these things alone.
This community is strong and resilient. Things are not easy and certainly do not feel “normal.” But I’m confident that we will navigate this together and return to the lives we treasure so much here in the mid-valley.