Op/ed: Let’s step it up for health care workers

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Raleigh communications company owner Chuck Fuller wants the N.C. business community to pick up its efforts to assist health care workers who are feeling overwhelmed by the pandemic. He sent this email to many N.C. trade association groups last week.

The purpose of this email is to ask you to reach out to your membership across this state to re-engage in supporting our health care workers dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Please take five minutes to read this letter, and use the material as you feel appropriate to encourage your member companies accordingly.

 

On March 3, North Carolina identified its first case of COVID-19. It has been over 250 days since, and the pandemic remains a hindrance to our state, particularly our hospitals. Hospitalizations have played an integral role in the reopening of North Carolina. They are one of the Department of Health and Human Services’ key metrics and commonly referred to when state leaders discuss the next steps in addressing the pandemic.

North Carolina’s hospitalizations peaked in late July with 1,236 inpatient COVID-19 hospitalizations. At that time, DHHS reported that along with rising hospitalizations, there was “concerning evidence of sharply increased rates of anxiety and depression in North Carolina,” and higher rates of emergency room visits for substance overdoses and binge drinking.

These issues remain present today. In late October, COVID-19 reported hospitalizations in North Carolina were the second-highest since the pandemic began, and hospitals are expecting another peak by mid-December. There’s also the added strain from the flu season and rising emergency room demand – Duke University Hospital said last week that more people are coming in for ER visits not related to COVID-19 after putting aside routine visits to their doctors.

Unfortunately, while the pandemic’s impact on North Carolina’s health care workers, specifically nurses, is still present and has been for months, the support from the business community has diminished noticeably. Early into the pandemic, hospital workers coordinating the distribution of goods received from businesses were overwhelmed with support. In some sense, it was problematic, but representative of the steps North Carolina’s business community was willing to take to assist one of the state’s most valuable industries. Now, the support has dwindled when hospitals are reporting that stress levels are rising among their health care workers.

We were recently informed of what should serve as a motivator to every business leader and organization in this state. Here in the Triangle, Robert Bucklin, representing only himself, has made more than  20 deliveries of snacks and beverages to UNC Rex Hospital and has helped feed over 2,000 staff at Rex. Some of the staff surprised Bucklin one day and offered their thanks. Bucklin responded with this letter:

I was blown away when I arrived with my weekly donation drop at UNC Rex Hospital. About 25  Rex staff came out to thank me. I was truly humbled by their taking time to come out.  I wasn’t prepared for that and I didn’t know what to say, except thank you. I got thanks, and a hug from a nurse from the Covid ward and that brought me to tears.

My connection to UNC Rex started back in 1999.  After my first wife, son, and I moved down from New York, her breast cancer reappeared.  We got treated by Dr. Barry in the Cancer Center for three years.  Unfortunately, she didn’t make it.  But I will never forget the compassion and support we received.

Fast forward to April 1st 2020.  We are now in the thick of this pandemic. We are hearing about the horror stories of our doctors and nurses, the uncertainty, the sadness, and the pressures.  I didn’t have the ability to make planes fly overhead to say how much we support all their efforts, so I called and connected with Chelsea Ward.  She suggested drinks and snacks. Comfort items, just for a little break.

It’s now October, and the tension and uneasiness continue.  I have enjoyed coming down every week and occasionally get to talk to some of the nurses and thank them in person.  I am not in any way looking for accolades. I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to do something for others.  It’s not earth moving, but it makes me feel better through all this craziness.

The important aspect that I want people who read this to take home is,  we are all in this together.  These people at Rex are fulfilling their duties to so many in a difficult and strange new atmosphere.  Many of these heroes are seeing too much death, illness, and depression while trying to show a strong and happy demeanor.  It is the “little things” in life that keep us all going.  The doctors and nurses and orderlies and security and janitors and EMTs and staff at Rex all deserve our thanks, our love, and our support.

Rex is one little center of concern that I chose to focus on, and I hope more people will step up to support them.  But let’s look at a broader picture of the Triangle.  Open your eyes, people.  How many other centers of concern should be getting our support.  These are crazy times on so many fronts! Imagine if everyone who could help, even in a tiny gesture of support, actually did.  There would be more people like me, smiling inside. There would be more Triangle heroes feeling that little appreciation and love they need to keep going.

Be concerned and act.

Robert Bucklin called for looking at the broader picture of the Triangle. We are calling on you to look at the broader picture of the entire state.

Hospitals in every region of the state are dealing with an increased workload – they have been since March and will continue to do so through the end of the year and into the next. Our health care workers are struggling, and we fear this issue has lost our communities’ eyes. That is why we ask that you share this message with your members. By informing them of the unique challenges our hospitals still face in this unprecedented environment, we can reignite the support from the business community our health care workers benefited from months ago.

Let’s act on Robert Bucklin’s letter, help our health care workers, and show the state the power that North Carolina’s business community holds.

Regards,
Chuck Fuller

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