By Jessie Wagoner
Dr. Tyler Hughes paid a visit to the city commission Monday to provide an update on COVID-19. He began by saying he hoped to change the dialogue about COVID-19 from one of divisiveness to one of good citizenship.
Hughes advised he was contacted a few days ago by a colleague in a town similar in size to McPherson. They also have a low vaccination rate and low compliance with masking and social distancing.
“His hospital is completely full,” Hughes said. “Twelve of their 14 emergency rooms are filled with patients awaiting admission. They have stopped all elective surgery procedures that would require admission. They ran out of ventilators, they were able to get five on an emergency basis, but even if they could get more ventilators, they have no personnel to supply care for ventilated patients. They have converted their waiting rooms to mini ICUs. Patients with other medical conditions are having their treatment delayed.”
He went on to explain one of their patients who is on a ventilator is 43 years old and does not yet know his father has died of COVID. The toll on support staff and nurses is daunting. They are working 12-hour shifts without breaks for meals or the bathroom.
“They have passed their 2020 death rate and the surge is not expected to slow until late October,” Hughes said. “Today, in Cambridge, Ohio, medical staff is developing guidelines of who will not get care when they are overwhelmed in the next few days.”
Hughes says he has heard from many surgical colleagues who are facing the same problems and lamenting that much of it could be prevented.
“A colleague in Wichita was relieved Saturday morning to realize he had three ICU beds open,” Hughes said. “Then he was saddened when he realized he had three COVID patients die overnight.”
Hughes says rural America, like McPherson, is incredibly vulnerable to COVID-19. Rural America has limited medical resources and a low ability to transfer patients.
“All pandemics end and this one will, too,” said Hughes. “It will either end because it has infected so many patients it can no longer find a host or it will end because we took action.”
Hughes encouraged anyone eligible to receive a COVID vaccine to do so.
“There is no question, none, that the current vaccines that are developed for COVID, are both safe and effective,” Hughes said. “Anyone who says differently is incorrect.”
He went on to say masks and social distancing have been shown to reduce the spread of COVID.
“Engaging in these preventive methods is an act of patriotism and good citizenship,” Hughes said. “I believe arguments about these measures need to be viewed in that context, rather than personal choice.”
Hughes’ update follows a dire update last week from Shalei Shae, director of the McPherson County Health Department. Shae advised then that local medical professionals were overwhelmed and having a difficult time transferring patients. Though Shae and Hughes have both expressed grave concerns regarding COVID in the community, the commission has made no steps to introduce a mask mandate for the city.