As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Ozarks, doctors and nurses across the medical field are urging people to get their vaccinations.
Cox Medical Center Branson recently took to Facebook and said there are nearly 100 COVID-19 patients across the CoxHealth system. The hospital appealed to the community asking them to get vaccinated.
“We are tired of it, too! We’ve dealt with this every second of every day for almost a year-and-a-half now. Today, there are 100 patients in the hospital with COVID across CoxHealth. Sadly, nearly all of those cases could have been avoided with a vaccine,” stated a Facebook post from Cox Medical Center Branson on June 23. “We’re not spreading fear, we’re spreading facts because we want you to be well. You matter to us. Please get your vaccine.”
As of Monday, June 21, 24% of Taney County has completed the full vaccination series — either one dose of Johnson & Johnson or two doses of either Moderna or Pfizer and 27% of Taney County have initiated at least one of those COVID vaccination shots.
According to Lisa Marshall, director of the Taney County Health Department, the county’s vaccination rates are extremely below the state average, which is sitting closer to 40% completely vaccinated.
For more information on vaccine rates and COVID-19 in Taney County, see ‘Taney County Health Department gives COVID-19 update’ at bransontrilakesnews.com.
Inpatient doctor shares his COVID-19 experience.
Hospitalist Physician at Cox Medical Center Branson Cody Hoeflicker has worked for CoxHealth for almost 15 years and has been with COVID-19 inpatients since the height of the pandemic.
“Right now (Cox Medical Center Branson) capped our number of inpatients at six because COVID patients take a lot of resources to take care of. You have to have isolation, you have to have PPE, so it’s a system,” Hoeflicker said. “At the height of the pandemic we were taking care of a lot more than that because that was what was required, but as a system, we try to get those people to where there’s the most resources.”
CoxHealth’s system has several medical centers around the area, including Branson and Springfield.
The increase in COVID-19 patients across CoxHealth’s system is due to a recent surge.
“As a system we have about 90 inpatients with COVID, so that’s 90 people in a hospital that didn’t have to be. This whole surge, it’s entirely preventable. It didn’t have to happen. If people had been vaccinated, we wouldn’t be having another surge,” Hoeflicker said. “That’s the demoralizing part of it because these people are very ill, and once they’re sick, there’s just not much you can do to turn it around.
“There’s no magic medicine that makes this go away. It’s just supportive care. These hospitalizations are long and resource intensive, and people don’t always survive so that’s been the most frustrating thing.”
Doctors and nurses across CoxHealth are urging the community to get their vaccinations so more people do not contract COVID-19 and to decrease the volume hospital workers are dealing with.
“I would just urge everyone that can to get vaccinated. That’s the only way we’re going to get through this. This pandemic won’t go away until we all either get COVID and recover or die, or we all get vaccinated,” Hoeflicker said. “Yeah the vaccine has some risk, but COVID also causes all of those things and causes it a lot more frequently than the vaccine does.
“And I don’t mean to diminish the tragedy of people having bad outcomes with the vaccine, that’s truly awful. But any medicine does have side effects. When you look at the odds, our odds are so much better (for) surviving a vaccine than we are surviving the infection.”
ICU nurse describes the toll COVID-19 has on nurses.
Kayla Hilles, a COVID ICU nurse, shared on Cox Medical Center Branson’s Facebook page about the work she has done with COVID patients over the past year and the toll it has taken on her and many of her coworkers.
“Everyday I go in, I see my patients, I talk to them. I know about their families, I know about their grandkids, what they do for work, what they like to do for fun, just all about them and learn who they are as a person,” Hilles said in the Facebook post.
Hilles said not only do hospital staff become attached to their patients, but their patients become attached to them, as they are the only people they see during their fight against COVID.
“They never thought they’d be the one to get COVID, but here they are. And now they’re scared, and now you’re the only one they have and you’re fighting for them,” Hilles said. “You’re the one reminding them everyday not to give up, that their grandbabies want their papa back home. It’s emotional. It’s physically draining, emotionally draining and ethically draining.”
Patients in the ICU are able to fight and live due to the help of the nurses and doctors, which is often overlooked by those in the community, Hilles said.
“Patients would not live without ICU level care sometimes. I know that one thing that’s been mentioned about COVID is the death rates like 1%, 2%, sometimes 3%, but that’s because of the work that we do everyday,” Hilles said. “It’s draining to us. People are getting worn out.
“I know that everyone is tired of COVID, we’re tired of COVID too, we can’t do this forever. And I’m not asking you to not see your family, I’m not asking you to stay in your house, I’m not asking you to not go enjoy your life. I’m asking you to please be careful.”
Health care workers share their dedication to COVID-19 patients.
Hilles and Hoeflicker said they are passionate about everyone getting vaccinated but are still working hard to help everyone regardless of their beliefs.
“We’re all professionals, and we have a job to do. I haven’t seen anything but good care take place. We’re a little frustrated, but we’re still doing our job,” Hoeflicker said. “I just like being able to help someone out that needs a hand. You see someone that’s sick and needs your help, and you actually have the ability to improve that person’s life, so it’s deeply rewarding.”
“We are there everyday for you no matter what your beliefs are. But we are becoming drained. There’s no magic cure to COVID at this point, and I hope that there is someday. But for now, we have to do what we can do,” Hilles said.
Those in the health care community are urging people to understand the need for a sense of community in these trying times. Hilles said she hopes people will play their part to help nurses and doctors as they are the ones seeing patients suffer every day.
“I know that we sound like broken records, but we’re losing people every day. I have sat by more people and held their hand as they passed away in this past year than anyone should have to do in their entire life,” Hilles said. “I won’t let anyone die alone, nobody that I work with will. We love these people like our own family. We know it’s hard on you guys not being with your family, but nobody should ever have to sit and hold the hand of somebody that they’ve just met a week ago, and be the only person that’s with them as they die.”
Hilles encourages people to remember that although COVID is still here, there is hope.
“We will be the first people to celebrate with you as soon as COVID is gone. We cannot wait to celebrate COVID leaving, but for now we can’t celebrate yet. So please do your part and stay safe for us,” Hilles said.
For more information about Cox Medical Center Branson follow its Facebook ‘Cox Medical Center Branson,’ or visit coxhealth.com.