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Midlands Voices: Nebraska hospitals under enormous strain; the public can help

Midlands Voices: Nebraska hospitals under enormous strain; the public can help

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“We are in crisis mode.” Those are the words of one Omaha physician treating COVID-19 patients on the front lines last week. The facts: More than 239,000 Americans are dead and more than 10 million people in the U.S. infected. Omaha hospitals have about 370 patients admitted because of the virus and Douglas County cases are surging past 500 per day.

This is what teachers and coaches call a learning opportunity. A chance to look in the mirror and ask how we can work — individually and together as a team — to make a difference, knowing it requires discipline, strength, persistence … and unity. A culture of responsibility for our own well-being and that of our fellow Nebraskans. What about my individual freedoms? Our freedoms come at a price.

Often that price has been paid by someone we have never met, or had a chance to thank. Ask any veteran. One can think of this situation as a coin that has “responsibility” on one side, and “freedom” on the opposite. We don’t get one without the other. Currently, the price of one individual’s freedom may be another person’s life.

We, collectively, as citizens and health care workers see and feel the many facets of hardship from COVID-19 and we see them growing. Delays of preventive care, surgeries, worsening of untreated conditions, mental/emotional distress, domestic violence and substance abuse are all increasing due to our ineffectiveness in addressing COVID-19. Now, we’re facing alarming realities of growing hospitalizations in an environment when our resources and our capacity are limited. We are exhausting our health care system in Nebraska and desperately need your help to stop the spread and to get this situation under control.

We know you’re tired of making sacrifices and some of you question the severity of this pandemic if you haven’t experienced personal loss. But this is exactly when your service and diligence are most needed, because apathy only worsens this situation. We are now at the point in the pandemic where we are about to be overwhelmed with ill patients who need tremendous amounts of care. Conversion of regular hospital rooms to ICU beds and COVID care rooms has begun. Surgical cases are again being postponed or limited. Non-COVID emergencies may face delays in care.

This trajectory is in our power to change, but it takes all of us.

There is good news on the horizon with promising performance of a vaccine, but it will not be widely produced, delivered and administered for several months. We also don’t know if after effects of COVID-19 including lung damage, neurological pain and other issues will subside or become chronic life-altering conditions.

Until safe and effective treatments become available, we must rely upon and support what works: physical distancing, masks, sanitizing, adequate testing, tracing of contacts, and isolation when needed.

It is said that when you are digging yourself into a hole, you should stop digging. We have dug 239,000 holes so far in the United States, each one six feet deep. It is time to stop digging. We must work together responsibly and respectfully. We ask the public to be our partners, to step up to follow the necessary restrictions and guidelines of experts. This is a community problem and requires a community solution.

We ask that you join the medical community in solidarity and be a leader by your individual example.

This essay was signed by the Metro Omaha Medical Society, Nebraska Medicine, Methodist Health System, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Nebraska Medical Association, Nebraska Chapter of the American College of Physicians, Nebraska Regional Council of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Nebraska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Nebraska Pharmacists Association, Health Center Association of Nebraska, Nebraska Association for Home Healthcare and Hospice, Nebraska Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Nebraska Hospital Association, Nebraska Nurses Association, Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association, Nebraska Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association, Nebraska Academy of Physician Assistants, Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, Nebraska Association of Pathologists, Nebraska Dermatology Society, Nebraska Chapter of the American College of Cardiology, Nebraska Medical Directors Association, Nebraska Orthopedic Society, Nebraska Psychiatric Society, Nebraska Academy of Family Physicians, Lancaster County Medical Society, Nebraska Nurse Practitioners, Nebraska Rheumatology Society, Nebraska Oncology Society, Nebraska Society of Anesthesiologists, Nebraska Neurological Society, Nebraska Affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, Nebraska Optometric Association, Nebraska Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, Nebraska Podiatric Medical Association.

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