The healthcare professionals at Medical Center Health System (MCH) and Odessa Regional Medical Center (ORMC) have spent the past two years going above and beyond their usual work duties, not to mention the abundant hours they have put in to take care of their patients. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these healthcare workers have undergone extreme measures to care for the virus-stricken patients, as well as those receiving other types of care and treatments. Unlike any other health crisis we’ve experienced before, this pandemic brought on many unknowns and new “normals”.
Each year, the Odessa Chamber of Commerce selects a Citizen of the Year who has spent the last 12 months doing extraordinary things to move the community forward. However, this past year has been like no other. It only makes sense that for the 2021 recognition, the Odessa Chamber of Commerce will focus on not one, but literally thousands of Citizens, as we honor the healthcare professionals at our two local Hospitals.
From the beginning of this pandemic in March 2020, our two community hospitals immediately sprung into action and partnered in ways that had never been seen before. They led by example to show that by working in partnership with each other, we are better together. While on any given day they are competitors, this pandemic allowed these two facilities, led by CEO Russell Tippin at MCH and CEO Stacey Brown at ORMC, to show that the community is the overall winner when you work together as one.
The two facilities hosted joint press conferences to inform the community as to the latest information and statistics regarding the spread of COVID-19 in Odessa. Employees of both facilities worked side-by-side, caring for the community, at testing and vaccination sites. The staffs worked together to provide the latest information through weekly stakeholder meetings, informing Odessa and Ector County officials, as well as the leadership of Ector County ISD, Odessa College, the University of Texas Permian Basin and the Odessa Chamber of Commerce in order to assess the community impact and disburse proper information. Leaders at both Hospitals encouraged citizens and business owners to take extra precautions while participating in large gatherings and recommended the wearing of masks when necessary. Both Hospitals provided expert advice to fellow businesses, organizations and individuals regarding safety protocol and best practices for returning to work after exposure or positive test results.
Some healthcare employees had to deal with reduced hours due to the state-mandated cancellations of elective surgeries, which meant cuts in pay for months on end. Some employees chose to leave the healthcare field all together, due to burnout and the high level of stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees on COVID-specific units saw the death rate skyrocket, while also transitioning to inform and console families virtually since they weren’t allowed to be with their loved ones in person. Staff members at MCH and ORMC clinics, temporary community sites and main hospital facilities often worked without reprieve, many with no holidays or weekends off, to make sure the patients received the care they needed. All the while, putting their own lives and their families lives at risk, many testing positive for COVID themselves.
While this virus has impacted so many people of all ages, healthcare workers have not only dealt with the impact on a professional basis, but also personally. Many of us were able to work remotely and take extra precautions to steer clear of crowds and highly exposed areas. However, healthcare workers had no choice but to report to work each and every day to battle this war. While there is still no end in sight, these same healthcare workers continue to fight on the frontlines. As a community, we are thankful for their skills, passion, tenacity, empathy and knowledge. With more than 33,000 positive COVID cases and almost 600 deaths in Ector County, these numbers continue to rise. It is comforting to know that we have more than 2,600 employees at MCH and ORMC ready to step forward and take care of our community, whatever the costs.