Dear Grinnell Community,
As you know, we are facing an unprecedented time in healthcare in the wake of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. We have seen the global pandemic playing out on the world stage, and each of us is treading that fine line between panic and preparedness. The same holds true within healthcare – we are quickly working to prepare for a crisis, the likes of which we have never seen. I am extremely proud of the work that has been done at UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) in collaboration with many community partners.
As the Medical Staff President and Medical Director of the COVID-19 response at GRMC, I am seeing this work take place first-hand. We are moving mountains to make care possible in new ways; physicians, nurses, team members and community partners are pulling together to keep the city of Grinnell and surrounding communities as healthy as possible. We have benefited from wonderful donations from many individuals and businesses and I am immensely grateful for such support. And while we hope for the best, that we come through stronger and more connected, we need to prepare for the reality of what is ahead.
In Grinnell, we have experienced hardships and loss already from COVID-19. We look to our neighbors in New York and Seattle and we know that the journey is just beginning. We are seeing just the tip of the iceberg. If we do not change course the effect on our community will be devastating.
We must avoid a false sense of security by the current number of cases in Poweshiek County and Iowa. Compared to our neighbors, it may seem that our fate could be different. However, we are on the cusp of change, the calm before the storm. Now is the time to change the course, and we cannot delay. Our actions today, tomorrow, and in the weeks ahead can change how drastically this affects our community.
While there are many things we don’t have – a cure, a vaccine, proven medications – we do have a lot in place at GRMC and with our community partners. We have a respiratory care clinic to help triage and advise people experiencing respiratory symptoms before they come in physical contact with others. We have surge plans ready so that we are as prepared as possible to accommodate more patients should the need present itself. We are working on innovative partnerships to obtain adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). We continue to work closely with public health for incoming donations that will support our efforts.
And possibly our strongest tool, if we use it in time, is that we also have each other. I am calling on you, the citizens of Grinnell, to help change the course. We do this by staying home, sheltering in place, and avoiding even those limited contacts through which the virus might spread. In these troubled times, increased social isolation is terribly difficult.
The countries that have “flattened the curve” and stopped the increasing rise of cases, have done so with strict isolation. And while I have no power to enforce such an edict, I implore you to take heed. The difference in what is to come, lies in your hands. It is the difference between 40 new hospitalized cases a day and 8 new hospitalized cases a day in the months ahead. It is the difference between overwhelmed health care services and sufficient health care services. For some of us, those who are older, those with chronic medical problems, or those in essential service positions, it may be the difference between life and death.
So as a citizen of Grinnell, a mother of two young boys, and a physician, I am begging you to stay home. Stay away from the ones you love, to protect them. Stay away from the places you want to go, so they can open again when this is over. Go to the grocery store and for medical care only when you need it. Stay connected to your family and friends in ways that don’t require physical proximity. Take good care of each other, but please stay home, so that should you need medical attention, we will have the resources to take good care of you.
Please know that we as a medical community are with you through this challenging time and hope for brighter days ahead.
Lauren Graham MD, MPH
Medical Staff President
UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Regional Medical Center
You can also watch Dr. Graham deliver her powerful message via video!