With record numbers of COVID-19 patients in Hunt County Regional Hospital, Richard Carter, Hunt Regional Healthcare CEO released the following open letter to the citizens of their county.
To the citizens of Hunt County,
I am writing to update you on the seriousness of the current spread of COVID-19 in our area and our vaccine administration process. Moreover, I am writing to inform you of the dire situation of local healthcare resources and ask for your help mitigating the further spread of this virus.
Firstly, I would like to thank you for your patience as we work through the public vaccination process. We have experienced an overwhelming response. We are navigating this in real time and are relying on the public for your support and cooperation. I could not be more proud of our employees who are working tirelessly on behalf of public health.
Hunt Regional Healthcare was fortunate to be among the first to receive the first vaccine doses and were prepared to receive and administer the vaccine to our healthcare staff. Our aim was to keep our staff healthy so they can continue to care for our communities. It was not our intention to provide vaccines to the public. When the Texas Department of State Health Services asked if we would be willing to receive the first shipment of Tier 1B vaccines for Hunt County citizens we agreed, knowing we were not equipped to provide large scale vaccination clinics but wanting to do what we could.
Hunt Regional received a 24 hour notice that the first shipment of Tier 1B vaccine was on its way on Wednesday, December 30. Our charge from the state was to administer the vaccine as quickly as possible so that we would be eligible to receive additional doses. We requested the State allow us to transport vaccines to various county locations for distribution, but were advised that the vaccine was to be distributed only at the location where it was received. We did not have time to develop an appointment system prior to our vaccine distribution, but are now testing a structured method and hope to have it in place for future distributions.
Our success thus far is due to the forward-thinking staff we employ who suggested we purchase the ultra-low temperature freezers early in the vaccine process, even before information about the vaccine was fully understood. The freezers cost us $30,000, but we determined the investment on behalf of our citizens was worthwhile. If we had waited to purchase the freezer, Hunt County would have no Pfizer vaccine for distribution and our healthcare professionals and senior citizens would be without the opportunity to receive early doses.
It is important that we are transparent about our current situation. Our staff is limited and required for patient care. Our abilities become more limited as the pandemic progresses. We do not have the nursing staff or resources to run a daily clinic for the extended period of time it will require to vaccinate the public. Simply put, your local hospital cannot accomplish this task alone.
I have reached out to County Judge Bobby Stovall to develop a COVID vaccine task force and he is working diligently to get the task force operational and design a system to administer large quantities of the vaccine to Hunt County residents. We are also hopeful that a distribution network is in development by the state for mass community distribution.
It is now that I must inform you of the severity of our present battle. We are currently over capacity with both COVID and non COVID patients. As of today, we have 70 COVID patients in our hospital and are operating at 120% of our medical capacity. We expect these numbers to continue to rise due to a post-holiday surge.
We have a daily ER hold of 20-25 patients waiting for beds and are using an outdoor tent for ER registration so that we can utilize waiting room and office space to care for patients. Surgeries have been restricted and we are now using the surgery center as an alternative care site. This is not a trial unique to our area. We have been dealing with these problems for months and your local healthcare professionals have done a magnificent job. They did not sign up for this crisis. And yet, they have gone the extra mile. They are tired. They are facing a strain on their mental health. They have put their own health second to care for our community. They deserve praise for their quick, steadied response, not criticism for an impossibly challenging situation.
For those who have heeded the advice of your local healthcare professionals and the CDC, thank you. For those who have not, please start today.
You already know what to do. Wear a mask. Do not gather in large groups with those outside your household. If you feel you may be sick or are asymptomatic but may have been exposed, stay home.
We pledge to continue to serve you and ask for your patience and understanding.
Richard Carter, Hunt Regional Healthcare CEO