An Op-Ed plea: Before our hospitals are overwhelmed

County hospitals get topaward

This op-ed piece is contributed by the heads of WellSpan Health’ s local hospitals in Chambersburg, Waynesboro and Gettysburg. It reflects the extreme situation caused by the current Coronavirus pandemic.

Each day for the last nine months, WellSpan Health’s doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and other team members have been caring for family, friends and neighbors affected by COVID-19 in south central Pennsylvania.  

At our WellSpan hospitals in Chambersburg, Gettysburg and Waynesboro, nearly one out of every two hospital beds is occupied by our friends and neighbors suffering from COVID-19. The strain on hospitals is intense, impacting our ability to perform routine surgeries and keep services open.  

RELATED: PA Department of Health: Big surge in COVID-19 cases

The mantra of a pandemic

Our team members—your friends and neighbors— are amazing people caring for people they know and love. That’s the commitment made by our care teams. It is WellSpan’s mission in action. Their mantra has been the same from the beginning of the pandemic: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stand six feet away from others. 

Through long, exhausting shifts, our care teams wear heavy, hot personal protective equipment—masks, gowns, gloves, face shields — to ensure they don’t spread the virus to their co-workers, visitors or patients. They return, day after day, to see people they know struggling to breathe; fighting to live and looking for a hand to hold when visitors aren’t allowed. They work tirelessly every hour to keep people alive, sit with those who won’t make it and carefully tend those who have died without loved ones at their side. Remember, they tell us: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stand six feet away from others. 

Our care teams across WellSpan have cared for more than 2,000 hospitalized patients and gently held the hands of more than 300 people who died from COVID-19 in our hospitals. They have felt exhaustion, sadness, hope and anger. What they have asked of us are three simple things: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stand six feet away from others. 

Slow the spread, remember the mantra

While the community and nation debate whether masks are helping slow the spread, our care teams continue to see the effects of the virus on those we love. While rumors abound that COVID affects “those over age 65”, or “only those in communal living situations” our care teams watch young people, middle-aged people and older people succumb to the disease each and every day. 

Now is the time to slow the spread of the virus—before it overwhelms our healthcare heroes, and we aren’t able to fulfill our mission to the community. Before our hospitals can’t care for one more person:    Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stand six feet away from others. 

It might save your life. 

A message from WellSpan West: 

Thomas Anderson, MD, Vice President Medical Affairs, WellSpan Chambersburg and WellSpan Waynesboro Hospitals 

Mike Cogliano, President, WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital 

Laura Crim, MD, Western Region Medical Director, WellSpan Medical Group 

Paul F Dende, DO, Chief Medical Officer, WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital 

Melissa Dubrow, President, WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital 

Roxanna Gapstur, RN, PhD, President and CEO, WellSpan Health 

John Massimilla, President, WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital 

Sherri Stahl, RN, Western Region Senior Vice President, WellSpan Health