“Do we seriously have zero COVID patients?”

RRMC sees zero COVID-19 hospitalizations for more than a week
Rapides Regional Medical Center
Rapides Regional Medical Center(KALB)
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 7:02 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - During a week of record-breaking low COVID-19 hospitalizations, Rapides Regional Medical Center (RRMC) announced in a social media post that it has remained at zero COVID-19 patients for an entire week. It was the first time since March 16, 2020, and before the world really knew all that would come from the pandemic.

“All we saw was what was on the news,” said Clint Whitcher, medical ICU unit manager at RRMC. “We hadn’t had a patient yet, but I vividly remember our very first patient because I was scared.”

“We stayed extremely full, both hospitals, full capacity for I don’t even know how long,” said Shelly Wanjura, floor unit manager at RRMC. “Over a year, a long time.”

For medical staff, it has been more than two years of operating in a pandemic with no set rules or procedures.

“Just like any other virus, we were just struggling on what’s the treatment for it,” said Goutham Gudavalli. ”How infectious this is? What precautions do we need to be taking for ourselves, and for our nurses to care for these patients?”

“In nursing, we follow protocols,” said Whitcher. “That’s what we do. It helps make our job a little easier. In this one, we were blind.”

Families of patients have had to communicate with them through screens and text messages, and in some cases, nurses were the only ones to hold the hands of patients while seeking treatment. That took a toll on the medical staff as well.

“The challenging parts for myself were watching my staff suffer through the pandemic and getting very attached to patients,” said Wanjura. “We do everything we can, and we lose them...very hard on them, very disheartening.”

“In here, it was just simply defeating,” said Whitcher. “Just because we would do everything we can, and they still wouldn’t make it.”

As every phase has had its own set of challenges, diminishing resources and staff, hospitals have continued to function.

“Without working as an effective team, I don’t think we would be able to come across the whole pandemic,” said Gudavalli.

Even as numbers trend downward, healthcare workers are staying vigilant and encouraging others to do the same.

“We’re still holding our breath,” said Whitcher. “We’re still waiting for that next wave to come, trying to stay on alert, trying not to let our guard down, trying to stay positive through all of this, and just trying to keep people on their toes.”

Meanwhile, hospitals are continuing to encourage people to take safety, like social distancing, measures while going about their daily lives.

”I think we need to get on with our normal lives, but I think COVID is here to stay, and I think we need to use the same precautions as if it was at the peak of the season when we had lots of COVID cases,” said Monte Wilson, president and CEO of Christus St. Frances Cabrini Health System. “So, be safe. I still encourage getting the vaccine, but at the end of the day, it’s all about how we do the daily things: wash your hands, stay six feet away and just be careful.”

Cabrini Hospital is one hospital around the state still experiencing COVID-19 hospitalizations. Wilson noted, that while numbers remain substantially low, they still see an average of three to five new COVID-19 patients a day.

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