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2020 – What a Year!

Reflecting on a year of challenges, grateful for the support of our community.

By: Sheryl Rickard, CEO, Bonner General Health

2020 will undoubtedly be written in history as a year of challenges: Australian brushfires, murder hornets, west coast fires, hurricanes, the COVID – 19 pandemic, and much more!

Of those things, COVID – 19 has had the most noticeable and significant impact on Bonner General Health.  On February 27th, we activated our Incident Command System to ready our response to the deadly coronavirus that had emerged in Wuhan, China.  Our focus was to keep our patients, staff, and community safe.  We concentrated on the shortage of testing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).  In March, our administration and physicians made the difficult decision to stop all elective procedures to ensure our staff’s safety and preserve PPE.  We experienced increasing costs related to COVID preparation and decreasing revenues due to the closures.  Fortunately, we were able to secure enough PPE and testing supplies to make it possible to start providing services again in May.

One of the most challenging decisions we had to make was placing restrictions on family members being able to visit their loved ones and volunteers to come into the hospital. We recognize the importance of family members in the healing process, so limiting access was difficult.  We need, value, and appreciate our volunteers, so not to have them in the hospital working beside us is heartbreaking.  Unfortunately, we have not felt comfortable releasing these restrictions.

Early on, we determined that timely, transparent communications to our staff, physicians, and community partners would be critical. It has been gratifying and impressive to see how the medical community has supported each other and collaborated. We met with Kootenai Health and the other North Idaho hospitals to share ideas, information, and plans.  We have a respectful, supportive relationship with these hospitals and were open to helping each other if necessary. It’s gratifying to see people rise above all else and completely support one another.

Capacity became a concern as we saw what other hospitals were experiencing in the United States.  In April, we started to plan for a surge in patients.  Sadly, Idaho is experiencing that surge now.  Our philosophy has remained to hope for the best, prepare for the worst. That is true now more than ever.

We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we received from the community.  The messages of gratitude, words of encouragement, and acts of generosity were heartwarming.  The positive reinforcement from the community creates an energy that helps our health care team keep going.

So much has changed this year.  We remain focused on reducing the threat of COVID-19 in our community.  Nothing is more important to us than ensuring the health and safety of our patients, our staff, and our community.  As an organization, we hope that we will look at this time in the “rearview mirror” in the next few months. When we do, we can feel proud of how we responded individually and collectively to this virus.

Article Submission for Sandpoint Living Local Magazine, December 2020.

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