Heroes of the Pandemic: Health care workers, first responders

By Dena Miller
Posted 6/25/20

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through our lives there were, indeed, those who became the heroes of our strange new world: our health care workers and first responders.

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Heroes of the Pandemic: Health care workers, first responders


As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through our lives there were, indeed, those who became the heroes of our strange new world: our health care workers and first responders.

William Patten, CEO of Holy Cross Medical Center, and the hospital's board of directors witnessed firsthand the remarkable dedication of their staff.

"Everyone in our entire organization deserves to be considered a hero," Patten remarked. That said, he noted, some of the staff members "clearly rose above their job descriptions" to ensure both the best possible care of patients and the integrity of hospital preparedness."

Recently, and after careful consideration, Holy Cross named its 13 "Super Star Hospital Heroes" for special recognition. "The nominating process was open to all hospital employees," said Gayle Martinez, marketing and communications manager for Holy Cross. "All together we had approximately 30 of our 420 employees nominated by their fellow staff members, with nominees spanning across front line physicians and nurses to IT support and housekeeping. In the end, we named two teams and 10 individuals as our heroes."

The COVID-19 Physician Team includes John Foster, hospitalist; Heather Marshall, director of Emergency Department; Geilan Ismail, cardiologist; and Tim Moore, chief of staff and OB/GYN.

"Each of these physicians embraced the incredible challenge of COVID-19, raising the level of care to that of an urban tertiary-care hospital," said Martinez. "Because of these physicians, we had an early and coordinated response to the virus including outreach with all other local medical providers to ensure that everyone was following the same protocols."

The Emergency Department was the second team named, including Marshall and her team of Advanced Practice clinicians - Marti Miller, CNP; Martin Neubert, PA-C; Christa Castro, PA-C; David King, PA-C; and Sarah Bean, Emergency Department manager, and staff.

This team of individuals was, of course, the extraordinary first line of intake and process handling of patients as they assessed the potentially infectious from those requiring other medical care.

"They are our Marines," Patten said.

And of Bean's staff two emergency registered nurses were highlighted for their extraordinary extra efforts: Kristine Willis, who was instrumental in supplying and stocking "C-Hall," the dedicated COVID-19 area of the hospital; and Renee Romero, whose long hours spent in the hall guaranteed exceptional patient care.

Individual honorees include John Gonzales of the IT Department, who set up work-from-home capabilities for employees; Rose Jaramillo of Materials Management, whose foresight ensured a solid supply of personal protective equipment; and medical assistant Zoe Gallegos, who moved her sewing machine from home to the hospital and made dozens of masks for staff.

"Jessica Gonzales, an OR registered nurse, went so far as to adapt welding shields into powered air-purifying respirators," Martinez noted, "and Shawna Collins - just two weeks into her role as Surgery Department nurse manager - researched prototypes for masks and gowns and made an instructional video on how to sew surgical gowns."

Burt Ridge of both IT and Facilities Management used his skills to problem-solve the development of increased negative pressure rooms and isolation areas while setting up tents outside the ER entrance and, in cooperation with the town of Taos, preparing the Annex Building for overflow patients.

David Elliot, Emergency Preparedness, is recognized for obtaining much of the equipment necessary for that building, leading the Hospital Emergency Response Team and being instrumental in the formation of the Enchanted Circle Enchanted Circle Community Organizations Active in Disaster.

And there's Patricia Varos of Environmental Services, whose meticulous housekeeping "above and beyond thorough cleanliness ... kept everyone safe," Martinez said.

"We are not done with this virus, nor are well through this, but we are at a point where we at Holy Cross need to say thank you," Patten said. "We are well positioned for the future thanks to our team's strategic planning, leadership and staff dedication, and our community's participation."

Patten noted the many community partnerships forged during the crisis, including Centinel Bank, the town and county of Taos, University of New Mexico, Taos Community Foundation, Enchanted Circle COAD (Communities Organizations Active in Disaster) and, of course, the hospital's board of directors.

"Community members turned out in unexpected ways, also," he continued. "Rolling Still Distillery donated 30 gallons of hand sanitizer for our employees, Linda Cisneros of Linda's Upholstery helped make surgical gowns and myriad businesses donated prepared meals for the staff. Not to mention the many generous private monetary donations we received."

"Patients tell us they prefer to be treated at Holy Cross because our patient-centered care makes them feel like family and friends. We're proud of that, as we are of our super heroes and every staff member who continues to stand ready to see us through whatever the future may hold," Patten concluded.


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