Covid-19: Close To Home

Normally I prefer in this space to address issues in healthcare which have wider applicability rather than being just NorthBay Healthcare focused. After all, I retired almost three years ago after being NorthBay’s CEO for over 35 years. It was good to be the king. It’s even better being on the beach.

However, NorthBay Healthcare and, more specifically NorthBay VacaValley Hospital, was the center of media attention for two days beginning last Thursday. Fate delivered to NorthBay VacaValley Hospital the first known Covid-19 patient in the nation who had no travel history to China or known exposure to a Covid-19 carrier.

Important questions were raised about how this virus could have been transmitted to the patient given the apparent lack of exposure to someone who had been afflicted with it. Local, state and federal public health officials are pursuing the answer.

Meanwhile, the media has been in a frenzy about this new viral disease which so far seems to be relatively mild in effect for most people. General assignment reporters recast themselves as public health sleuths while asking inane questions of real public health experts. Cable news programs depending on their political leaning blamed either the President or the Speaker of the House for just about any development involving Covid-19. It became a political virus too.

NorthBay’s Vice President of Public Affairs (the person who twisted my arm ten years ago to write a blog for NorthBay so blame him for my continued blogging) particpated in a televised press conference with public health officials. He did a great job of explaining how the hospital had followed the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before transferring the patient to the University of California, Davis Medical Center which also followed the guidelines. The media seemed to be looking for a villain among the various officials at the press conference but in a fast moving situation my impression was that everyone did the best they could given the circumstances.

Locally, I have heard of many concerns. People seem to forget we endured a world-wide pandemic in 2009 (the H1N1 or “swine flu”) which also had a China connection. Social media this time seems to be having an outsized effect on people and is stoking fear.

One of the things we often forget is how dependent we are on hospitals and the people who provide or support patient care. Every day these people put themselves at some risk as they help patients get better. To me, the staff at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital who treated this patient are heroes and heroines deserving of recogniton and acclaim. I wish I could thank each and everyone for their dedication to caring for the community.

Unfortunately, several NorthBay staff have already tested positive for Covid-19 and many others are being continually tested. Now that the virus has escaped the confines of cruise ships and hospitals, all of us are going to have to become both more observant of good hygiene and more responsible for isolating ourselves from others should we fall ill.

I suppose I am completely biased but I believe NorthBay’s management has performed admirably in a fluid, uncertain situation. Ironically for this situation, my favorite President, John F. Kennedy, once pointed out the following: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represent danger and the other opportunity.” Covid-19 is both.

A final comment. Last Friday morning, the day after the news of the NorthBay patient made international headlines, I was at NorthBay’s medical fitness center which is directly across the parking lot from NorthBay VacaValley Hospital. In the locker room I was asked by someone who knows of my previous NorthBay position if I had any information about what had happened the day before. As I began thinking about how to carefully compose an answer about Covid-19, he further elaborated his concern by saying that he and others wondered why the power was off for a hour in the morning which prevented any workouts.

Perspective and proportionality is everything.

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