Originally published in the Fresno Bee.
By Craig Castro and Todd Suntrapak
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet. With the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths on the rise, hospitals need your help to slow the spread of this virus.
The unprecedented healthcare challenges tied to COVID-19 have resulted in an even closer collaboration between Central California healthcare providers. Hospitals are not only communicating closely on bed capacity, PPE and staffing levels, but are also leading a united front on COVID-19 prevention. Community Medical Centers’ CEO, Craig Castro and Valley Children’s Hospital CEO, Ted Suntrapak co-authored a joint opinion piece published on Fresno Bee’s Valley Voices, urging the public to do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
As our communities and businesses begin to resume operations, most of the Central Valley continues to experience rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. In fact, of the growing number of California counties currently on the ‘watch list’ for accelerating rates of COVID-19, several are in the Central Valley. Although only 10-15% of those with COVID-19 will be hospitalized, we must remain on alert.
Hospitals are here to care for all of us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—emergencies are part of our DNA. As the region’s two largest providers of care for adults and children—Community Medical Centers and Valley Children’s Hospital—our hospitals are ready for whatever challenges come our way. As hospital CEOs, safety remains our primary concern for our patients, our employees and medical staff, and our community.
During these past months of the pandemic, our Valley hospitals have been focused on equipping our staff and physicians with the additional resources needed to respond to COVID-19. Valley residents can count on us to deliver safe, advanced care, whether you need emergency services, to schedule a surgery or receive on-going specialty treatment.
Headlines in the Bee and other local news sites over the last week have described increasing hospitalizations, impending shortages of hospital beds, and worries about our community’s ability to care for this patient surge.
We want you to know that your area hospitals are collaborating to help ensure the health and safety of Valley residents. We’re sharing our knowledge and resources to help obtain adequate PPE and COVID-testing capabilities. Together, we’ll face the healthcare challenges and uncertainty of COVID-19.
In order for our preparation to be effective, we need you to do your part. As we settle in to new normal routines, we cannot let down our guard against this terrible virus. COVID-19 doesn’t take a day off. It is real, and it is in our communities. The virus doesn’t recognize city limits, county boundaries or political affiliations. And it’s not going away any time soon.
California often leads the nation in the number of daily new cases of COVID-19. And the counties our hospitals serve are among those with a dramatically rising number of cases. It is worrisome that some still question these alarming statistics, the effectiveness of wearing masks, and re-opening requirements that are meant to keep us safe.
Help us keep the conversation clear. Pass along these scientific facts, words of encouragement, guidance and support for our communities.
Masks are effective, inexpensive and do help slow the spread. That’s where we each can make a difference. Let’s wear them when we are out in public, in closed spaces, or around large crowds. Yes, they can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Do it to keep your children and their grandparents safe. It is essential to participate in this public health campaign to slow the transmission of the deadliest pandemic in 100 years. In order to make public health efforts a success it takes a community working together.
Masks plus social distancing is an even better combination. If two people are both masked and six feet apart – even if one is a COVID-19 carrier – the transmission risk is at its lowest.
Wash your hands often. Watch what you touch. And avoid touching your face when you have touched surfaces you have not cleaned yourself.
Use technology to do wellness checks with your neighbors and friends and family. Get creative using smartphones and video conferencing technology. Our mental health is suffering along with the impacts of the pandemic. Hospitals will see more crisis cases of anxiety and depression during this time. Help a loved one seek care from a trusted doctor before it reaches emergency levels.
By working together, we’ll get through COVID-19 and elevate the health of everyone who lives in our Valley.
We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and generosity for our staff and physicians over the last several months. But the best form of appreciation we can receive is for you and your families to practice the recommendations that can help keep us all safe---wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing and avoid large crowds.
Craig Castro is the President & CEO of Community Medical Centers. Todd Suntrapak is the President & CEO of Valley Children’s Healthcare.