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Stay the Course (Dr. Graham’s Editorial June 4)

Though much has changed since COVID-19 prompted a March 2020 editorial from Dr. Graham, the virus has not. Please proceed with caution; stay the course for the sake of our most vulnerable neighbors.

Dear Grinnell Community,

Many things have changed from my first editorial in March. Spring has arrived, the tulips have come and gone, and another school year has ended, without the traditional pomp and circumstance. Similarly at the hospital, a new season of medical care is upon us.

In the last two months at UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) we have increased PPE supplies, forged new partnerships and grown stronger as a medical community. We have learned how to best care for positive COVID-19 individuals, including the more than 30 patients who have been hospitalized thus-far at GRMC.

We have employed new treatments including high flow nasal cannula, convalescent plasma, and anti-inflammatory drugs to help critically ill patients recover without need for mechanical ventilation. We have established new pathways for respiratory illness care, including our respiratory care clinic and our collaboration with St. Francis Manor. Compared to two months ago, much has changed. We are better prepared, we are more knowledgeable, and we have come through the worst of the storm – stronger than ever.     

However, we still must proceed with caution. Despite our preparation and knowledge, there is one significant thing has not changed – the virus. Coronavirus knows no boundaries, not those of season, state or county. The virus has not changed; it is still as infective as it has ever been. It is not swayed by lifting of restrictions, political affiliation or boredom with staying home. The plain truth is that novel coronavirus is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and we must learn to co-exist with it safely and find our new normal.  

Here at the hospital the new normal includes reactivating services such as elective surgery, physical therapy, mammography and outpatient visits for chronic disease. We are proceeding slowly and with caution to prevent overcrowded waiting rooms and excessive use of resources, all the while ensuring that we have the necessary supplies and capacity to care for all critical illnesses in the Grinnell regional area for the months to come. Please continue to call ahead, avoid bringing visitors and wear a mask to protect yourself and others – and we promise to do the same. We are here each day to provide safe care, your way. 

When you are out and about the in community, please keep in mind the same principles – proceed with caution. If you are not feeling well, stay home. If you are unsure if you feel well or not, stay home. If it is not necessary, stay home. Minimize physical contact and stay at least 6 feet away, out of the range of respiratory droplets that may contain the virus. If you must be closer than 6 feet from another person, wear a mask. Use good hand hygiene – wash frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.

I know the last few months have been incredibly hard, and I want to thank all the residents of Grinnell and Poweshiek County for the dedication you have taken to keep your community safe. Your relentless commitment to staying home, to protecting our vulnerable persons and to doing the hard work for the good of others has not gone unnoticed. It has allowed us to go from one of the early hotspots in the state of Iowa to one of the more prepared hospitals in the state, providing a model of community collaborations to rural hospitals in the region. It has allowed us to provide the level of excellent care you and your family expect and deserve.   

I would also be remiss not to thank all those who are doing the hard work on the front lines – our essential workers. To our brave first responders – thank you for continuing to put your lives at risk for our safety and protection. To our dedicated health care providers and support staff – thank you for putting the health of the community before your own. For the food service workers – thank you for providing us with sustenance to keep going in these hard times. To the delivery and energy sector persons – thank you for keeping us running. 

Together we have flattened the curve, protected the community and proven that we are better together. As we enter the next season of finding our own new normal, I challenge you to be mindful – your actions impact your health, the health of your family and the health of your neighbors, including our most vulnerable. Act with integrity, proceed with caution and act as if lives depend on it, because they do

Stay the course, Grinnell!  #GRINNTOGETHER

In hope and peace until we can see each other again,

Lauren Graham MD, MPH

Medical Staff President

UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Regional Medical Center

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