OPINION

Column: Hospitals urge Ohioans to ‘do the right thing’

The Columbus Dispatch
Mike Abrams, Guest columnist

Our state just passed a horrible mark — more than 5,000 fellow Ohioans have died from COVID-19. The grim data point represents moms, dads, sisters, brothers. Empty chairs at Thanksgiving dinners next month. Even more sobering: Ohio’s COVID-19 hospital admissions, in decline since peaking in mid-July, are spiking with an increasing number of hospitalizations in rural Ohio.

And that’s why the Ohio Hospital Association is investing $1 million in a public awareness campaign, “Do the Right Thing.”  

Ohio’s nearly 260,000 hospital employees have been on the frontlines fighting COVID-19 for more than seven months. Caregivers have worked exhausting extra shifts for weeks on end, isolated themselves after shifts to protect their families, and many volunteered to help in early pandemic hot spots like New York City.

Hospital staff, through Tuesday, have cared for 17,388 COVID patients admitted to their facilities, including 3,597 who required minute-by-minute treatment in intensive care units.

The Ohio Hospital Association’s two-month media campaign features two Ohioans sharing their fight to survive the deadly virus. Cleveland State University Women’s Basketball Coach Chris Kielsmeier, 44, spent six days in the hospital with COVID-19 and shares his fears of not surviving. Geneva resident Stacey Unsinger, 51, spent three weeks in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Seven months into Ohio’s response, health care providers and public health professionals have learned masks, social distancing and hand hygiene are the most effective methods to mitigate virus spread. However, these basic steps are, inexplicably, a flashpoint for political debate.

Our world-class medical centers in Ohio have been on the forefront of new therapeutics being tested to treat COVID patients. Ohio’s manufacturing companies are responding with solutions to the nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment.

We also know hundreds of thousands of Ohioans lost jobs or had their pay reduced by the economic impact of the pandemic. We know Ohio hospitals have lost $4 billion in these seven months as non-emergency procedures were deferred to preserve PPE, and operating costs to combat the virus soared.

We do not know how soon we will have a proven vaccine. We do not know how soon we will have proven, readily available therapeutics.

We do not understand disparate effects of the virus on minority communities. We do not fully understand how children can be carriers of the virus, yet, thankfully, are not as likely to become seriously ill.

And we do not know how the virus’ impact will evolve as we spend less time outside in our limited social exchanges. Devoted fans will not be able to attend Buckeye games at the stadium, but will they gather in large groups indoors to watch on television with fellow fans?

The Ohio Hospital Association exists to collaborate with Ohio’s 240 hospitals and 14 health systems to ensure a healthy Ohio. Our collaboration at this point, a critical time in our state’s fight against this deadly virus, focuses on getting our fellow Ohioans to join the battle.

We cannot fully address rebuilding our economy, restarting in-class learning for our children and enjoying our favorite things about living in Ohio if we do not first stop the virus. I, for one, cannot wait for the day I return to Nationwide Arena to scream at the action on the ice and cheer on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It is imperative that we all do our part to stop the spread of this virus. We know what works — wearing masks, social distancing, regular disinfecting and hand washing. These are actions we must all take, every day, to protect ourselves and others.

Mike Abrams is president and CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association in Columbus.

Liftout: Seven months into Ohio’s response, health care providers and public health professionals have learned masks, social distancing and hand hygiene are the most effective methods to mitigate virus spread. However, these basic steps are, inexplicably, a flashpoint for political debate.