Pandemic Today: We Didn’t Expect to be Here. So, What’s Next?
By David B. Burmeister, DO, MBA, Emergency Medicine/Pediatric Emergency Medicine, LVHN
Originally posted January 12, 2022
David Burmeister, DO, Chair, Department of Emergency and Hospital Medicine, LVHN, shares a perspective from the front lines in this op-ed
When we started vaccinating health care workers at Lehigh Valley Health Network, the end of the pandemic seemed like a viable and coming reality.
A year later – it’s still not a reality. It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. And it’s tragic.
Our hospitals are full. We’re treating nearly as many COVID-19 patients today as we were a year ago. Add to that: RSV, the flu, and other everyday accidents and illnesses. Broken arms. Heart attacks. Car accidents. The system is taxed. Every hospital and caregiver in the country feels that. We feel it physically, mentally and emotionally.
You’ve either read about, heard from a friend, or maybe even experienced for yourself: long wait times in the ER, lines to get tested for COVID-19, and longer than normal turnaround time for test results.
We’re strained – but we’re not without options that ensure you get the best care in the most efficient manner.
That being said – some of you might not need care if you’re experiencing mild symptoms and just not feeling well. The best thing you can do is stay home, rest and protect others. This will help alleviate delays within our system.
Of course, some injuries and illnesses do require care – but they don’t all require an ER visit – or an in-person visit to the doctor, for that matter. The emergency room is always an option. But it’s not always the best option, depending on the type of care you need. As we continue battling the relentless surge of COVID-19 and the needs of other patients in the hospital, we must all work together to save those beds and resources for the critically ill.
Gone are the days of the ER being the only resource for suspected broken bones or slip-and-fall injuries. Our orthopedic injury centers can diagnose and treat everything from back pain, sprains and sports injuries. Walk-ins are accepted.
You can connect with the same doctors and providers you’d see in person from the comfort of your couch. For many illnesses such as mild flu, cold and COVID-19 symptoms, virtual care is the safest, fastest and most convenient option.
Virtual care options through MyLVHN include e-visits allowing patients to receive comprehensive care by filling out a questionnaire that a caregiver reviews and responds to within 24 hours. Our patients can also connect with their primary care and urgent care providers with video visits.
These not only help us reserve in-person visits for the most seriously ill, but also allow us to keep you safe – by giving you care at home, away from other sick, and possibly contagious, patients. It also saves you time and the aggravation of waiting in our lobby or your car.
It’s obvious but our hospitals, urgent cares, and doctor’s offices would be a lot less busy without COVID-19.
One in five hospitalized patients is sick with COVID-19. The vast majority of them are not vaccinated or boosted.
Ninety percent of COVID-19 patients in our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) – the sickest of the sick – aren’t fully vaccinated or vaccinated at all. As of the first week of January, I could count on one hand how many boosted patients have ended up in the ICU.
You might not be the type of person that likes to gamble, but if you do it’s a good bet you understand your odds. In the COVID gamble, if you’re vaccinated, and better yet boosted, the odds are significantly in your favor. You are far less likely to end up in the hospital. And WAY less likely to end up in the ICU and hooked up to a ventilator. There are no guarantees of course, but if you knew you had an 80 percent chance of winning the lottery you’d buy the ticket. So get the shot.
Vaccines are not only effective – they are safe. Our hospitals are treating hundreds of COVID-19 patients. We are not treating people with bad reactions to the shot. In fact, I haven’t treated one.
I’ve heard plenty of sick and dying patients regret not getting the shot. I have yet to meet someone who regrets being vaccinated.
When you’re sick we’ll be there for you. And thanks to technology, innovation and a large network of resources, we can be there for you in many ways.
The end of this pandemic, and relief to our stressed system, can be our reality. But we all have to work together.