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The Heroes of COVID-19

JPS Health Network Heroes of Covid-19.

It’s the faces of skilled doctors and nurses that patients see when they’re in the hospital. But it takes a whole team of people working as one – many of them behind the scenes -- to win the fight against COVID-19.

No matter what department they’re from or how long they have worked there, team members from across the JPS Health Network have pitched in during this these unusual times. Why? Because their patients and their community need them.

“It’s really kind of crazy how fast we made those changes to accommodate not only the patients but also our staff to keep them safe and to minimize their exposure” said Kenny Carr, Senior Vice President of Network Operations at JPS. “I’m so proud of our team. I really am. In times like this, you’re really living in the moment. Once you are able to take a step back and look at what you accomplished it’s like ‘wow!’”

Everyone who works at JPS has done a fantastic job of pulling together to take care of our patients – and each other – in the toughest of circumstances.

One of the first problems that arose in the COVID-19 fight was the question of logistics, and obtaining enough personal protective equipment so that doctors, nurses and other caregivers could treat patients and still protect themselves from a potentially deadly disease. Who was going to find the gear and get it to the people who needed it?

 “Noel De La Pena’s logistics team has been absolutely clutch in helping us to obtain supplies distributed through FEMA’s Strategic National Stockpile and transactions with our local Healthcare Preparedness Program partners,” Lynch said.

De La Pena, Manager of Vehicle Maintenance and Transportation Logistics, said his entire crew is ready and willing to help in any way it can. They’re all honored to be making a difference.

“Really, the whole team has stepped up to the plate,” De La Pena said. “They’ve gone to convention center (where people experiencing homelessness are sheltered), to the Department of Public Health to transport testing supplies, and they’re picking up items from the warehouse, making sure people have everything they need. They have done anything I have asked them to do and have never refused to go into the trenches. They put on their facemasks on and their PPE on and they were ready to go. They’ve been shuttling in nurses from parking areas to where they work in the hospital. It’s not just a few. The whole department has stepped up and come through. I’m so grateful that we’re able to be here to help out.”

With protective equipment in hand, team members needed to know how to best use it in the fight against COVID-19. Leon Russell, JPS’ new Emergency Management Coordinator was in new employee orientation as JPS was formally ramping up for COVID-19, Lynch said.

“Since that time, Leon’s taken the lead in establishing the processes relating to safely donning and doffing PAPRs (positive air purifying respirators), a key component in our staff’s respiratory protection,” Lynch said. “Assisting him in this endeavor were Viviana Chavez and Julia Borden, both RNs in the ED, and Yolanda Contreras and Cindy Bowers, RNs from the ICU.”

When COVID-19 reached Tarrant County, only 15 percent of JPS patients filled their prescriptions remotely, Carr said. Trying to avoid a situation where hundreds of people a month had to come to the hospital to get their medicine, the Pharmacy staff worked long hours to convert walk-in refills to a delivery system. Just two weeks after later, 80 percent of prescriptions were filled through the mail.

In the Laboratory, team members had to become proficient at processing several different kinds of tests efficiently.

“We have all heard all about how testing was so hard to get in the early days of COVID-19, and it still can be hard to get today,” Carr said. “We have had to deal with multiple vendors to do testing and we have to be able to work with several different methodologies because one day we might have one kind of test kit and the next we’re using something else.”

While most of the responsibility for caring for COVID-19 patients has fallen on the Emergency Department staff and people who work in Intensive Care, doctors and nurses who work in other departments have volunteered to work shifts caring for pandemic patients to give other team members a much-needed hand.

“This is the most intensive of intensive care I have seen in 30 years in the business,” according to Dr. Rick Miller, Chief of Surgery at JPS. “We have incredibly sick patients right now. They require attention 24 hours a day every day. Doctors and nurses are constantly stamping out fires. It’s very surreal because we’re all wearing white space suits and you have a fan blowing in your ear the whole time so we’re constantly yelling at each other. It takes 20 minutes to put on the gear and again to doff it, so people working in the COVID unit are getting one break per 12-hour shift.”

Miller said a COVID surge plan was created by Dr. Razaq Badamosi, Medical Director, Pulmanary and Critical Care, whose team of physicians has expertly and tirelessly fought the pandemic.

“We’re the helpers. We’re following their guidelines,” Miller said. “The first time you go in there, it’s surreal, like being in a sci-fi movie. The average time patients are in there is two to three weeks. The staff members working in there are true heroes. I’m very proud of our team for jumping in and helping out. It’s our policy that if someone asks for help, we say yes.”

To keep the teams of caregivers functioning on the job and at home, Dietary Services created a curbside meal pickup program and then a convenience store on the JPS campus to allow workers to pick up necessities without having to stop at a store on the way home. Radiology divided into teams to service COVID patients and those who weren’t infected without the constant need to deep clean every time they crossed a line into a sterile area. Everyone else who was available served as runners, shuffling equipment where it needed to be at a moments notice.

Lance Lynch, Director of Emergency Management and Safety, said he wouldn’t have been surprised to see a few team members crack under the intense pressure of fighting COVID-19. But that hasn’t happened.

“Honestly, I’m surprised by the resilience of our team,” Lynch said. “This is intense work and it’s draining. So we’re very grateful for the courage and dedication of our entire team: doctors, nurses, and hospital leadership has been working right there with us every single day. Environmental Services, Transportation, the folks in Spiritual Care and with the Employee Assistance Program have been amazing. Everyone who works at JPS has done a fantastic job of pulling together to take care of our patients – and each other – in the toughest of circumstances.”