Sunday LNP op-ed by LG Health CEO John J. Herman
National Hospital Day was first observed in 1921, as the world struggled to recover from the historic Spanish influenza pandemic. The annual celebration honoring America’s hospitals and health-care workers has evolved over the years, becoming a full week in 1953.
A century after that first observance, we begin National Hospital and Healthcare Week 2021 in the midst of another pandemic, as COVID-19 continues to place tremendous strain on hospitals, health systems and health-care workers. We recently reached two unwelcome milestones, with the U.S. death toll surpassing 500,000 lives lost just as the pandemic entered its second year.
Like our health-care colleagues both locally and nationwide, the more than 9,300 dedicated employees of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health have confronted this ongoing crisis with exceptional courage, tenacity and heart. Even as we begin to see some signs of hope, our protracted battle against COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on our teams.
Health-care workers nationwide continue to experience alarmingly high levels of stress, anxiety, exhaustion and depression. In fact, in a recent survey by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than half of health-care workers reported feeling burned out.
Equally troubling, the constant pressures and challenges brought about by COVID-19 have led 30 percent of health-care workers to consider leaving their profession. Fortunately we are not yet experiencing that level of turnover locally, as such an exodus undoubtedly would place our community’s and our nation’s health care system at grave risk.
Each of us at LG Health chose our profession because we see health care as our calling. This is true whether we serve on the front lines caring for COVID patients, work to deliver essential health-care services to our community, or support those efforts in roles behind the scenes.
Throughout this pandemic, our dedicated teams have continued to fulfill their commitment to our patients and community, often at great personal sacrifice. They have willingly taken on extra shifts or expanded responsibilities, all while knowing the risk to their own health and that of their families.
While vaccines and improved treatments are indeed signs of hope, we continue to treat many COVID-positive inpatients each day at Lancaster General Hospital. Many of these patients are seriously ill, and in some cases, despite our best efforts, our team’s work proves heartbreaking, as evidenced by the loss of more than 1,000 of our friends and neighbors from the community.
Since LG Health’s founding in 1893, the Lancaster County community has stepped up to support us in countless ways. Indeed, your generous support has sustained our staff throughout the most difficult days of this pandemic, and we are eternally grateful.
Together we have made a lot of progress, but we continue to need your support for all of our health-care workers and our community by continuing to take basic precautions, such as wearing a mask and social distancing. Most importantly, if you haven’t already done so, please get vaccinated. It will protect yourself, your loved ones and the health-care workers who stand ready to care for you if you become ill.
Locally, as well as across the nation, we have seen a worrisome decline in the number of people who are willing to get vaccinated. I urge you to view vaccination as a matter of public health and a moral imperative. Please visit VaccinateLancaster.org to make an appointment or learn more about convenient walk-in hours at our Lancaster County Community Vaccination Center.
Also, please continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings, as recommended by the CDC. These simple actions require a little personal sacrifice, but evidence shows that they work to effectively stop the spread of COVID-19.
This Hospital and Healthcare Week, we are deeply grateful for our LG Health employees. We all would like nothing more than to see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can do this if we each continue to do our part. Thank you for the support you continue to show our teams as they strive to protect the health and well-being of our family, friends and neighbors in our community.