Guest Columnist

Pandemic lessons prepare Cedar Rapids hospitals for the future

Staff members watch from hospital windows as members of the University of Iowa  Alumni Pep Band play on top of the 10th
Staff members watch from hospital windows as members of the University of Iowa Alumni Pep Band play on top of the 10th Street parking ramp at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, May 18, 2020. The band members gathered to play for Mercy medical providers on Monday, and at St. Luke’s Hospital on Tuesday. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

We are humbled by and so appreciative of the outpouring of support for our local health care workers during this pandemic. The discipline and diligence demonstrated by the community in “flattening the curve” has been inspiring and has truly made a difference in helping to preserve our health care system and its resources. As a result of these actions, UnityPoint Health — Cedar Rapids and Mercy Cedar Rapids have been able to competently and continuously provide care for several hundred COVID-19 patients, as well as other, non-COVID needs.

As the pandemic emerged, a collaborative community planning group was formed to create a strategy for addressing the treatment of COVID-19 patients and the ways in which we would manage the needs of other patients, as well. That plan included the creation of guiding principles that provided a road map for the eventual resumption of all health care services. Currently, we are in the third of four phases to reactivate those services, and full safety measures are in place as we look toward entering the final phase. As part of that phased plan, previously scheduled surgery cases with postoperative hospital stays resumed on June 1.

During the pandemic, we’ve learned lessons that we will carry with us and have at our disposal should other emergencies arise in the future. For instance, our nurses, doctors and other health care workers have further developed their expertise in caring for patients with communicable diseases. In particular, expertise honed during COVID-19 includes the utilization of convalescent plasma therapy, antiviral medications and innovative critical care techniques, which help patients recover more quickly and decreases reliance on ventilators. These arrows of expertise give us even greater confidence that we will be prepared in the event of a second wave of the virus. However, we are a community and not a “curve.” As we carefully and confidently transition to the resumption of health care services, we want you to know that both hospitals and our respective clinics are safe and ready to provide care for you and your family. Specifically, we have safeguards in place to ensure the health and safety of our patients, visitors and health care workers. These measures include screening and temperature checks at entrances, visitor restrictions, COVID-19 preoperative testing, organization-wide masking, and thorough and continuous cleaning of each facility, among other safety initiatives.

As we venture into the new normal initiated by COVID-19, we’ve been encouraged that telemedicine has emerged as a popular and important conduit between health care providers and their patients. However, we understand that many patients are now anxious to see their health care providers in person. Rest assured that you can do this safely, as well. Whether it be for annual checkups, screenings, surgical procedures or an emergency, you can feel confident in returning to our hospitals and clinics to address your health care needs. In fact, it’s important to do so.

During this transitionary time, we ask that you continue to place your trust in your hometown health care teams. As always, we appreciate the opportunity to serve you and meet your family’s health care needs once again. We’re here for you.

Dustin Arnold, DO, is chief medical officer at UnityPoint Health Cedar Rapids. Tony Meyers, MD, is vice president of system quality, risk and medical affairs at Mercy Cedar Rapids.

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