Warner Thomas, our president and CEO, sent this message to all of our #OchsnerHeroes on Monday, March 30:
As we begin this new week, I'd like to express my profound gratitude for your heroic service and dedication. As you and your teams battle COVID-19 on the front lines and behind the scenes, I want you to know that your sacrifices do not go unnoticed. Not by me, not by your leaders, and not by our communities who have never needed us more.
It has been 19 days since we confirmed our first two cases of COVID-19 at Ochsner. As of Saturday, our system has cared for 2,956 patients who have tested positive, and we are awaiting test results for nearly 2,134 others. As we look across Louisiana, 3,540 patients have been diagnosed with this unpredictable virus, and we know these numbers will climb. It's also important to know that over 260 inpatients have been discharged who had positive COVID-19 test results.
As the positives continue to increase each day, they are beginning to show the magnitude of the crisis that you and your colleagues have been battling for weeks. Louisiana may now have the highest rate of acceleration in the world, with the Greater New Orleans area bearing a disproportionate burden.
Today, approximately 350 of our 26,000 colleagues are under quarantine for exposure to the virus. Statistically this is a small percentage, and yet every exposed employee is one too many. We take these situations seriously, and strict quarantines are in place to keep our employees and patients safe. Nearly 300 of our coworkers have tested positive for COVID-19, and we continue to pray for their rapid recovery. I will share these numbers with you regularly in the spirit of transparency.
We know that by the very nature of our profession, our physicians, nurses, medical assistants, custodial staff, administrative staff, security staff and other employees are at a higher risk of contracting the virus than the general public. We knew this when we signed on. However, I understand that what we're facing is frightening. I share your fear. But more than that, I am proud - and inspired - by our clinical staff who attack this challenge on the front lines every day. The professionals who refuse to give up. The Ochsner caregivers who know that nothing less than the health of our community rests on their shoulders, and on their ability to carry this burden.
As we look at this challenge from a global perspective, we run the risk of getting lost in the numbers. I am so grateful to the frontline teams who treat every patient with the respect, humanity and expertise that our neighbors, friends and family deserve.
I'm also inspired by the Ochsner team members who stepped up as we redeploy staff to help us focus exclusively on this fight. For example, many of our surgeons and anesthesiologists are now working as a team with our critical care physicians to care for patients in ICU or on ventilators. Many of our CRNAs have been redeployed to ICUs and clinic team members are working on inpatient floors. Clinic and corporate employees who normally do not treat patients are now assisting in the operation of our hospitals. And those who work behind desks or in our fitness centers are providing critical temperature checks at all our facilities.
Seeing my team members embrace these selfless changes in order to serve their community - shifts that they did not consider possible just three weeks ago - energizes me to stay focused on winning this fight.
The state of Louisiana and our local governments have done their part to slow the spread of this virus. This unprecedented shutdown of our economy and everyday activities, this complete altering of our way of life, show that we have partners outside the walls of our hospitals who know what is at stake. While we care for patients and manage this crisis from the clinical side, I am encouraged by the way our community has stepped up to support us.
There is a global supply chain crisis limiting the availability of equipment and materials necessary to fight this virus. But local businesses stepped into the gap and are producing the equipment we need. Scale Workspace and GoodWood NOLA are on track to provide us with 15,000 face shields per week. Big Easy Blends and Porchjam Distillation are producing hand sanitizer. And NOLA Couture is already making isolation gowns and surgical masks; they are ramping up production to 7,000 of each per week.
We have been careful with our use of personal protective equipment (PPE) since this crisis began, because we know it will be an extended fight. I know that evolving CDC guidelines that allow for the reuse of disposable items can be frustrating and confusing. We have done our best to keep you updated on the latest policies and the reasons for them. Please know that we are doing all we can and that we are securing the supplies you need every single day.
With that said, I want to be clear: we always want you to feel safe, no matter what. If you're on the front lines and feel you need a new gown, mask or other piece of critical equipment - tell your supervisor now!
Ochsner will not ask you to go without the supplies you need to feel safe and protected.
I also want you to know that we have a plan for managing through the crisis. There is a "why" behind every decision that we make, and every policy change we share. If you don't understand why we're doing something, please ask us. And if you have a different idea for getting something done, let us know. We would love to hear that too.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for Ochsner Health and our national healthcare system. There is no playbook on the bookshelf for mass pandemics that have this sort of impact. Governor Edwards recently said that he went back to look for lessons learned from state government during the 1918 flu pandemic. He didn't find a playbook either.
Because we do not have a step-by-step guide for how to deal with this sort of crisis, it is important to assume that we are all doing our best. Our teams have been using the information available to them to make the best decisions possible, with our patients and employees in mind.
I have been working with this assumption, and I can already see that our actions have improved our situation. Today we are in a much better position to deal with this crisis than we were three weeks ago.
As you already know, this crisis is a marathon, not a sprint. It's our job to get through it. And I know that we will. All of us will have bad days along with moments of hope. Remember to take the lessons learned from yesterday and look forward to tomorrow.