My wrist vibrated, and I reflexively looked at my Garmin smartwatch. “Multi-casualty incident in the ED [Emergency Department]. Six patients,” read the message. “Not a drill,” it continued.
I rushed to the Emergency Department as my thoughts swirled. When I arrived, I was struck by what I saw: our staff and physicians working in perfectly calm harmony. In that moment, I felt a tremendous burst of pride to be a part of Aspen Valley Hospital, with a renewed clarity about our purpose. I returned to my office to find an email from a grateful patient expressing appreciation for the kind same day surgery staff that helped an anxious and elderly patient through a procedure. Indeed, these are examples of our AVH team making a difference in patients’ lives, that are occurring every day at the Hospital and our clinics.
Next month, on March 9, will be the two-year anniversary of when AVH stood-up Incident Command in response to COVID-19 in our community. The 23 months that have followed have been filled with some of the greatest challenges, stresses, fears and disappointments this organization, and we as people, have ever faced. As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, we have also been besieged by fires, mudslides, staffing shortages, skyrocketing housing costs, political division and social discord. And then, starting just before the holidays, Omicron struck and we had over 10% of our staff out ill on any given day for weeks, leaving the rest to pick up the load during one of our busiest times of the year and amidst a surge in Omicron patients. That should have definitely depleted our last collective ounce of emotional reserve.
Given these challenges, the inspiring and yet routine response I observed the other afternoon takes on even greater meaning. I could have just as easily been standing in the Aspen Birth Center, or in a patient room, or upstairs in physical therapy, or in one of our clinics, or where a patient is being scheduled or registered. The fact is that hundreds of our staff and physicians do this work every day and take great pride in doing what they are trained and skilled to do. It is for this reason I wasn’t surprised to learn last week that 93% of our employees surveyed last November responded with pride that AVH cares about our patients, and 90% felt that we contribute to our community. That sense of pride and purpose is what defines us as an organization.
Last week, AVH changed our overall capacity status on the Pitkin County COVID-19 website back to Comfortable (green), along with our Average Daily Visits and our Admission and Transfer Capacity. Our Employees out Ill (with COVID) indicator remains at the Cautious level, as we are still identifying new cases among our staff, but we are much improved from just a couple weeks ago. This is great news for AVH, and our community, and it serves as further testimony to the power of vaccinations and the high vaccination rate in our community that protected us against serious illnesses and hospitalizations.
AVH is a part of the fabric of our community, which extends throughout our valley and beyond. We are not alone as an organization, or as people, in what we have contended with these past 23 months. And it will be as an organization, and a community, that we will rebound and rise back up together.