Each year, when the holidays roll around, I like to begin reflecting on the year that will soon come to an end.
This year, that reflection will happen in the massive shadow of COVID-19.
For most of us, it’s been a long, hard year for a lot of reasons. That’s true at St. Charles, too, where planning for and responding to the pandemic has taxed our caregivers, from the front lines of patient care to the administrative and support departments that help keep the health system running as smoothly as possible.
COVID-19 has changed the way we do our work. It has rewritten our policies and procedures and forced many of our people to work from home. It made us plan for the unthinkable in ways we couldn’t have envisioned just a year ago. It took a bite out of us financially.
And it is not done.
But behind the scenes, the silver linings shine brightly. Throughout the first half of the year, I was blown away by our caregivers’ openness to change, even when it came quickly and without warning. Day after day, our teams adapted to rapidly evolving circumstances, often putting in late nights and/or extra hours to do so.
Faced with shortages of masks, gowns and other protective equipment, our caregivers scoured the global supply chain for more, and our community hand-sewed and donated over 10,000 masks to us when we needed them most. Faced with concerns about our ability to care for a surge of COVID-19 patients, our caregivers quickly assessed our facilities and our workforce and built a plan to expand our capacity if needed.
With those issues addressed, we were able to get back to the business of caring for our communities. In 2020 alone:
We improved access to care in Prineville by expanding and upgrading the Family Care clinic and outpatient rehab facility there, and opening a new Immediate Care clinic.
We started offering virtual visits (via video, phone or electronic message) at many of our clinics, allowing patients to see their provider safely and in the comfort of their own home.
We opened the new Short Stay Unit in Bend, a state-of-the-art recovery space that will shorten wait times, increase safety and improve patient flow at the busy hospital.
We earned a spot on the 2020 Healthcare Equality Index as a “Top Performer” in promoting health care equality for our LGBTQ+ community and continued expanding our outreach to the local Spanish-speaking population.
We partnered with Portland’s Oregon Health & Science University to create what is believed to be the first graduate medical education program in Central Oregon, with residents based in Madras.
We continued our commitment to playing an active role in the communities we serve by providing health education, support for those who need it, scholarships for students and events that put the “fun” in fundraising.
We revived our efforts to envision the future of our Redmond hospital campus and to give it a more defined role within our health system so that it can fulfill its tremendous potential.
We identified our next priority focus for St. Charles’ community benefit efforts - prevention of the misuse of alcohol - which will drive some of our partnerships and education work in the coming years.
We were named one of the nation’s “Most Wired” health care organizations for our use of technology to help analyze health data and achieve meaningful clinical outcomes.
And finally, we redoubled our efforts to give back to the community and support local businesses after we received so much support during the early days of our COVID-19 response.
I can assure you, that’s just a portion of the amazing things that happened at St. Charles in 2020, even in the face of a global pandemic. And I hope it gives you an idea of why I am so proud to lead this organization and its 4,500 caregivers - now more than ever.
Around here, “creating America’s healthiest community, together” isn’t just a vision statement. It’s what we do every day.
Thank you for being a part of it.