By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
(Part 2 of a two-part series looking back at the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic)
As winter melted into spring, more than flowers and leaves were on their way in March and early April 2020. The coronavirus COVID-19 was also on its way.
“I guess it started back in March 2020, when it was declared a national emergency,” recalled Katie Hogenmiller, director of Med Surg at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital (SGCMH). “With that first impact, it was more fear, over everything. We didn’t have a whole lot of cases in the community. So, the biggest thing for us was policy changes preparing and waiting on guidance from the CDC.”
A deadly virus was making its way from Asian, into Europe, and was soon infecting the U.S. For a while Missouri had no cases, then after it came into the state, Ste. Genevieve County had still not been hit for a while.
“Fears were high,” Hogeniller said. “We had a little bit of an impact just from the unknown. Some patients, I think were probably missing checkups, fearful that they were going to get COVID at the beginning, without too much evidence of the virus in our community.”
VIRUS REACHES THE COUNTY
Before long, though, the coronavirus reached the county, and hospital staff had to start dealing with COVID-19 patients.
The virus, it was initially believed, would die out in hot weather. Indeed, it did seem to wane that summer, and the statewide lockdown ended during the summer. By fall, though, COVID had made another surge.
“It really picked up in September, with the Alpha variant,” Hogenmiller said. “During that time we had a pretty heavy impact in our community, the first impact that we really experienced. We had people on the floor that were positive for COVID and just all the variants that have hit since that time, we’ve run into issues – nothing that we could have prevented, like, making sure we had enough PPE available.”
There was a nationwide shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which included masks and gloves.
“The manufacturers couldn’t keep up and they were allocating to some the bigger facilities,” Hogenmiller said. “So that was one of the struggles that we faced.
“Then, of course, there was staffing as well.”
The hospital found itself with barely enough hands on deck to meet the rising crisis.
“We were needing more nurses to care for these patients because they were really sick,” Hogenmiller said. “And they were getting sick quick. With the increase in COVID cases, we struggled in having enough PPE, having enough testing supplies and having enough staff.”
“As time has transitioned, between caring for patients, day in and day out, we had change and adapt to the changing environment,” said Jennifer McBride-Hobbs, who took over as chief nursing officer in March 2021. “Over and over, our staff showed up every day, from doctors to lab technicians to environmental services to nursing personnel. They had every department show up to assist and care for our patients who needed us the most during this most critical time.”
“I think we did really well,” Hogenmiller said, “adapting to change and working together.”