Opinion: Grady Hospital’s COVID-19 plea — stay the course!

A man wearing a “screened” sticker exits Grady Memorial Hospital April 1, 2020. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
A man wearing a “screened” sticker exits Grady Memorial Hospital April 1, 2020. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

In the next few weeks, Georgia is expected to face the peak of this round of COVID-19 infections.

It will tax the capacity of our hospitals, test the patience of a public weary of sheltering at home and challenge the stamina of medical professionals who have already worked to the point of exhaustion.

But we will get through it.

In Grady’s more than 125 years serving Atlanta, we’ve met serious health challenges head on – the 1918 flu pandemic, polio in the 1940s and 50s, HIV/AIDS in the 1970s and 80s – and now, COVID-19.

As chief medical officer, I want to reassure you that most Georgians will be fine. Some will experience bad flu-like symptoms and recover at home. Others will require hospitalization.

The people at greatest risk of serious illness are many of the people Grady treats every day. People with underlying health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. People who, because of their situation in life, have experienced barriers to health care and would continue to face those barriers were it not for Grady.

So, for the health and well-being of our loved ones, our community, ourselves, it is vital that we follow best practices for COVID-19 prevention. That means take social distancing seriously and don’t leave the house unless it is absolutely necessary.

Be patient – to avoid becoming one.

COVID-19 is putting Atlanta healthcare to the test. In a city where hospitals operate at or near capacity on a normal day, the virus may lead to a surge in patients that could become unmanageable if we don’t all commit to stopping the spread. At Grady, where the trauma, emergency, stroke and burn cases keep coming and work to repair major flood damage continues, COVID-19 is straining an already-crowded facility.

Nevertheless, be reassured that Grady will be here for you, staffed by people committed to our mission of caring. The spirit of “We are Grady” is phenomenal. It has yet again brought the best out of us. Our staff is second to none — it’s not just the doctors and nurses, but this effort permeates every niche of the organization. It affects everybody, and everybody has put forth an extraordinary effort.

While Grady and every Atlanta hospital stands ready to provide the highest level of care, we prefer that you stay healthy. Again, your best chance of doing that is by following the rules of social distancing.

Don’t do it because the government or a physician tells you to. Do it because it is the right thing to do.

Do it to protect the people you love.

Robert Jansen, M.D., is chief medical officer and chief of staff at Grady Health System.

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