Susan Carson and the Environmental Services team she supports take pride in the important roles they play at Vidant Medical Center

“We make sure that it’s safe and clean environment for our patients and our families to come and rest and get better,” said Carson, manager of Environmental Services at Vidant Medical Center.

And never has what they do been more important.

“They are in the bottom of the trenches every day, having to come in here and do what it takes to keep this whole facility safe,” Carson said.

COVID-19 has required all hospitals and health systems to rethink just about everything – including how they keep facilities clean.

“It’s a hospital but it’s also a hospital that has never encountered this type of disease before,” Carson said. “Therefore, what we used to use yesterday is not effective in today. So we have to go and reach higher, do more, do it better.”

“That is their specialty, that’s what they do,” said Dr. Julie Kennedy Oehlert, Chief Experience Officer at Vidant Health, “And I also think their extra attention to high-touch surfaces, things you don’t think about that people touch, because remember the virus can live on surfaces like the elevator buttons, like door handles and all of that extra special attention is what keeps us all really safe.”

Vidant has taken a number of precautions to keep everyone who comes through their doors safe – this includes universal screening and masking, to protect against this airborne virus; visitor restrictions and keeping COVID-19 patients separate from everyone else; and investing in disposable cleaning tools and new technology.

“We did add Solaris machines, which are UV cleaning machines for our ORs and COVID rooms, after our COVID-positive patients leave and go home, because that’s what we want them to do,” Dr. Oehlert said.

And while these behind-the-scenes teams focus on keeping the environment safe – they never lose sight of the human side of health care.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is, tomorrow is not promised,” Carson said. “Make the best of each day, and do what you can do to make someone’s day brighter.”

Covid-19 | Health News

Using data and science to guide decisions is critical as we move toward reopening the economy. As more people are out and about, the risk of spread increases. As a result, it is necessary for our local leaders to develop a plan designed to react quickly as increased COVID-19 cases impact our communities.

It is possible for businesses to reopen in a safe manner with proper precautions in place. Vidant Health has done this by implementing a number of important steps to ensure we are providing the safest environment possible for those we proudly serve.

As a result of tremendous efforts by team members across Vidant, we are now able to increase access to essential care and services because we have the right testing in place, the right PPE and visitor screening and restrictions to ensure we have a safe environment. We continue to monitor the virus and can make adjustments to how we deliver care. We have taken a careful and thoughtful approach with safety at the center of every decision.

We strongly encourage our local officials and business leaders to also use science and data to respond to the virus. Many are doing this, while some are not. We all need to work together at this critical time.

As decisions about reopening the economy are considered, it is important we continue to do our part to protect ourselves and the communities where we work, live and play. This includes staying at home as much as possible, wearing a mask when out in the community, avoiding large gatherings, practicing social distancing and washing hands often. These steps can stop the spread of the virus and protect all of us including friends, family members and neighbors. This fact is based on the biology of the virus and sound epidemiologic principles.

I remain grateful to Vidant team members for all they continue to do to deliver high quality care for eastern North Carolina despite the challenges we face together. I appreciate the overwhelming reaction from the community and for what you’ve done to show your appreciation, compassion and support.

It is difficult to predict when our number of COVID-19 positive cases in eastern North Carolina will peak. What we do know is that there are steps we can take to open the economy safely and there are steps we can take as individuals to protect ourselves and those we care about. We need to continue to take this virus very seriously, take the appropriate measures to ensure we remain safe and have a thoughtful plan in how we reopen.

Eastern North Carolina is resilient and I know that if we take care of each other, we will get through this together.

Michael Waldrum, M.D., is chief executive officer of Vidant Health.

Read more on The Daily Reflector

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As COVID-19 spreads and creates uncertainty in all of our lives, mental health can easily deteriorate. People with pre-existing mental health or substance use struggles can experience more troubles than in the past and others who have no history with mental illness or substance use disorders may experience challenges for the first time.

Glenn Simpson, administrator for Behavioral Health at Vidant Health, said the most important thing people can do during this unprecedented time is reach out for help.

“People can have bad days and can feel down or become a little nervous, but we’re talking about actual diagnostic clinical depression and anxiety and when to seek help for that,” Simpson said. “It’s like anything, when they say if you’re feeling chest pains, what should you do? Call 9-1-1. It’s no different for behavioral health. You don’t have to wait until you know you are extremely depressed. It’s OK to ask as you’re experiencing changes.”

Simpson said substance use disorders are also likely to rise during this time of uncertainty.

While people are in quarantine and perhaps without work, it can create a situation in which people use drugs and alcohol more often.

“Usually when people use drugs, it’s to take away some level of pain, so you can think of it in a very real, physical sense,” Simpson said. “People reach out for drugs and alcohol to feel more comfortable. With people feeling less comfortable with COVID, we’re certainly anticipating that more people will either be misusing drugs or misusing more if they already have been misusing. We anticipate that there will be more folks suffering with substance use disorders.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper made a proclamation earlier this month to recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month. In the proclamation, Cooper highlighted that while mental illness can be successfully treated, 60 percent of adults nationwide do not receive the treatment needed.

Simpson said with the technology available and awareness around the toll a pandemic can take on mental health, there are many options for those seeking treatment.

Some of those options include:

Simpson said he believes, much like the wave we are experiencing with COVID-19, there will be a wave of patients seeking help for mental illnesses and substance use disorders. He compared it to the aftermath of a hurricane, and said when people are dealing with a damaged home, they will focus on their primary need for housing before seeking care for their mental health well-being.

His hope is that people will seek help before a situation gets too dire for an individual.

“It’s OK to reach out for substance use help and mental health help, just like we do for our physical health,” Simpson said. “We do know that for the most part, a lot of interventions for behavioral health can be done through technology. The technology is there and folks are ready and willing to help – you just have to reach out, and don’t wait too long.”

Covid-19 | Health News

“We’ve seen patients delay care because they want to see if things will potentially get better on their own, or they don’t want to interact with the hospital or they are concerned about getting COVID-19,” said Dr. Richard Dalyai, a vascular neurosurgeon with Vidant Health.

While Dr. Richard Dalyai understands those concerns, he’s also worried about what it may mean for the stroke patients he serves.

“Patients in eastern North Carolina are about four times more likely to die of a stroke than North Carolina itself,” said Dr. Dalyai. “We know that the treatments that we do are highly effective, but they are most effective within a four, six or eight-hour window.”

Time is of the essence for many of the conditions Vidant treats.

“Eastern North Carolina has a population with a lot of comorbid conditions and chronic conditions, like heart disease and cancer, diabetes, strokes,” said Brian Floyd, chief operating officer for Vidant Health. “We’ve built a health system here to manage that and help people deal with those chronic conditions.”

Vidant is ready and safe.

“Vidant has been working very hard for months now to make sure this is a safe place,” said Floyd.

“Our standards remain the same, of excellent care,” Dr. Dalyai said. “During the pandemic, for patients with COVID-19, as well as for patients without COVID-19.”

Those standards apply to providing sound medical advice as well.

“It’s a confusing time, sorting through medical information that’s available on social media and through the internet,” said Dr. Dalyai. “To get the proper and best information is going to be from your health care provider.”

Vidant has a Community Resource Line available 12 hours a day. That number is 252-847-8000 and answered from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Covid-19 | Health News

Now that the curve continues to flatten, Vidant is phasing in the essential care and services, defined as any surgery or procedure that, if not done within four weeks, would potentially harm the patient. This includes select general and orthopedic surgeries, cardiac, vascular and gastroenterology procedures.

Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO of Vidant, said eastern North Carolina has higher rates of chronic conditions and diseases meaning these essential care and services play a large role in caring for the region. He said it will be important to take a phased approach over time to ensure safety of patients and team members. He said Vidant is using well-established protocols that reflect guidelines and best practices outlined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the U.S. Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Covid-19 | Featured | Health News

“From the environmental services team keeping Vidant facilities clean and operational, to the interpreters providing an essential service to patients and loved ones — and everything in between — these support team heroes have helped make it possible to provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Vidant CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum. “I am personally thankful for their work and I know our community is as well.”

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