This piece by Ernio Bovio, President of UNC REX Healthcare, and Janet Hadar, President of UNC Hospitals, was originally published at WRAL.com on Sunday, April 12.
We are honored to lead UNC REX Healthcare in Raleigh and UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, two of the Triangle’s largest hospitals. During this unprecedented time in healthcare we have many people to thank. The generosity of so many has allowed us to stay focused on our COVID-19 preparations and the mission of caring for the people of our community.
We are grateful to our co-workers. Every day thousands of our team members work tirelessly to care for patients with a wide range of diseases and ailments, not just coronavirus. Their commitment to excellent care is inspiring.
Our co-workers make incredible sacrifices as they serve on the front-line team. Although they are just now being designated as “essential,” we have always considered them critical to the well-being of our community. During this pandemic, they leave their families to put themselves in harm’s way. Our doctors, nurses, other caregivers and support staff are being called heroes and we agree. We can never thank them enough.
We must acknowledge the inconveniences we’ve placed upon our patients and their families. We’ve had to implement tough visitor restrictions, cancel elective surgeries, close clinics and more. We’ve told volunteers, students and vendors – all key players in making our hospitals run smoothly during normal times – to stay home. All of these steps were taken to ensure our resources and staff are ready to face this pandemic. However, they also caused frustration. We recognize this and thank all of you for being patient as we implement new and evolving processes.
The researchers and scientists at UNC deserve huge thanks. Infectious disease experts are helping us navigate this pandemic and determine the best ways to protect our co-workers and patients. Dr. Melissa Miller and her lab developed a new test to detect the virus that improved our ability to provide timely testing. And Dr. Ralph Baric’s team is working on vaccines that could one day defeat it.
We also want to express our gratitude for the outpouring of support from our broader community. The heartwarming generosity and kindness bolster morale for our workforce and remind all of us of why we’ve made healthcare our mission.
Several weeks ago, we put a call out for masks, gloves and other protective equipment that were in short supply. Our hospitals have received a steady stream of donations from businesses, schools, community organizations and more. New donations continue to arrive daily. In addition, groups of students at UNC, N.C. State and elsewhere are helping us by weaving masks and building face shields. We will ensure that all of this protective equipment reaches our staff and allows them to continue caring for the sick.
We’ve received heartwarming emails, signs, photos and other messages of thanks from individuals across our region. Sports figures have sent us videos with words of encouragement, including UNC coaches Roy Williams and Mack Brown, former basketball star Eric Montross, and Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour.
Our hospitals continue to receive many donations of food. Meals, snacks, drinks and more have helped us ensure our staff stays nourished and prepared. Examples include a Boy Scout and his Scout Master who dropped off several boxes of Jersey Mike’s sandwiches for the UNC REX Emergency Department staff. N.C. State football coach Dave Doeren and his wife Sara delivered 100 lunches from Moe’s Southwest Grill. Dusty Donuts parked its truck outside our loading dock for two days and made hundreds of free mini donuts.
The North Carolina Healthcare Foundation collected donations and enlisted Ashley Christensen Restaurants, Trophy Brewing, Capital Club 16 and other restaurants to deliver hundreds of meals at a time to UNC Medical Center and UNC REX. These are very generous and powerful gestures and shining examples of our community strength.
Many organizations and individuals have stepped up to help healthcare workers with child care, transportation or other daily tasks. During this crisis, it’s often the simple acts that make a meaningful difference.
We are grateful to our government leaders and elected officials, including Gov. Roy Cooper, Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and others. They continue to provide much-needed support and guidance that helps us to navigate this crisis.
We appreciate so many people whose lives have been disrupted, but continue to stay home, wash hands and maintain six feet of physical distance. Those efforts will help slow the spread of coronavirus, and allow our hospital teams time to prepare, plan, train and educate.
Your sacrifice and generosity give us the chance to fulfill our mission of improving the health and wellbeing of all North Carolinians.
This fight is far from over. We welcome your support and encouragement in the coming days and weeks. Successfully fighting coronavirus requires a team effort and we welcome all of you to our team. All of us at UNC Medical Center and UNC REX appreciate your generosity and kindness. We thank all of you in our community.