NEW ALBANY — Fourteen months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baptist Health Floyd President Mike Schroyer looks back on the historically challenging year in health care and ahead to how the hospital will continue to serve the community as it comes out from under COVID-19.
As of Friday, there were five people being treated at Baptist Health Floyd for COVID-19, compared with a record of close to 80 at one point in December. The drive-through vaccination clinic set up five months ago in one of the hospital bay areas will have seen roughly 50,000 shot appointments by next week, both for first and second doses.
With the vaccine now more widely available and as more people get vaccinated, the hospital will close that clinic May 21. The shots will still be available for walk-ins, and the health department will still be running its site at IUS.
“I’m just so proud of our team,” Schroyer said. “They have just done a great job. We’ve actually had people coming from all over to see how we’ve done it here because it’s so smooth and efficient.”
Shroyer said the teamwork of the entire dedicated staff has helped the community see its way past some of the darkest days of health care in recent years.
“They truly are heroes,” Schroyer said. “It’s been hard, it’s taken a toll with the things that they’ve seen, the things that we’ve had to go through to make sure that our patients and visitors and themselves are safe. With [patients] not being able to have a lot of family in here, they have spent extra time making sure that patients don’t feel alone.”
Last month, staff and patient families were able to come together for a memorial ceremony to honor all who were taken by the virus over the past year. Nurses told stories of what they had experienced and seen, and family members who had lost loved ones were able to tell their stories and thank staff. Even though families were largely unable to visit due to safety precautions, they knew that the people inside were caring for them — helping them to make Zoom and phone calls, holding their hands.
“It was very emotional,” Schroyer said. “It just brought people closer together and for our staff not only hearing their fellow staff’s stories but when families started speaking up, that was so helpful.”
Schroyer also said he’s been so grateful for the community support throughout the past year. Residents have written letters and emails, brought in treats for staff, commented while going through the vaccination line. Schroyer also often gets positive comments when he’s in meetings or the community.
“That’s been really important for our staff to hear that level of support as we’ve gone through this,” he said, adding that “we want to make sure that moving forward, we do everything we can for the wonderful communities that we serve.”
Now, he said, with things returning to a sense of normal, health leaders are taking stock of what they’ve learned over the past year.
“We’re ready to move forward,” he said, adding that while a lot of people have returned to Baptist Health Floyd for non-COVID-related procedures and care, it’s not completely back to where things were before. Some of the patients they’re seeing now also have worsened medical conditions, indicating they may have been putting off care due to fears of contracting COVID.
“We just encourage people to not wait to seek out care,” Schroyer said. “We have processes in place to keep it safe and even though the mask mandate is being lifted by the CDC, we’re going to continue for a while. We’ll also continue with the social distancing and anybody with suspected symptoms of COVID, we have a process to isolate them as they go through [hospital care.]”
The hospital has also refined processes focusing on patient care, efficiency and safety. This includes a move toward doing more procedures and tests at a patients’s bedside, rather than transporting them around the hospital.
A benefit both for safety and privacy, “the more that we can do in the patient’s room and keep them in the room the better,” he said. The hospital is looking at adding more “universal rooms,” or those equipped for multiple levels of care, and will be doing renovations both to the aesthetic design and the physical configuration or area for better flow.
The hospital will also continue to use telehealth options when needed, which Schroyer said help ensure access to health care for those with transportation issues or who are in rural areas.
“I am so excited to be here and there is so much potential for Baptist Health Floyd as we move into the future...and as we come out of this pandemic,” he said. “We’re very proud of what we do for this community.”