By Kendall McGee | March 30, 2021 at 6:43 PM EDT – Updated March 30 at 7:46 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Step into any emergency room and you’re thrust into a whirlwind of gurneys, nurses and doctors. What you don’t see are the people working behind the scenes who have a duty that’s just as important.
New Hanover Regional Medical Center serves an estimated 600,000 people across seven different counties and the hospital must always be ready to serve the needs of the community no matter what disaster comes its way.
“Well, you kind of get paid to be paranoid and think of the worst things that could happen and then figure out the best way that we can overcome those obstacles and plan for those worst case scenarios,” explained NHRMC disaster operations manager Paul Carr.
The team that runs the hospital’s emergency department has actually had to practice many of these doomsday plans in the face of hurricanes, ice storms and most recently, the pandemic.
“We’ve been planning the last two and a half years for a possible pandemic, which put us in a very good footprint in the organization as we had much more PPE on hand than most organizations did,” added Carr.
Thanks to that team, the hospital had already secured specialized equipment through a preparedness grant and had critical supplies in house months before the first case of the coronavirus.
Administrator for Emergency Services James Bryant oversees the hospital’s four emergency departments. He’s an ER nurse by trade, but his job now has him moving things like beds, staff and equipment like chess pieces to make sure the department is always prepared for the unknown and everyone has a bed.
“I think the biggest struggle is just overcoming fear. You know, all of us, we all have families, we all have relatives and people who have been touched by COVID; so, just overcoming some of that fear through things like education is key,” said Bryant.
The hospital staff is proud of the job its done the last year helping save lives, but there were several obstacles to overcome as the coronavirus stretched the healthcare system to its limit.
At one point, the hospital even ran out of masks and had to come up with creative solutions to treat used gear with UV light so it could be safely used again.
However, these real life healthcare heroes couldn’t be defeated because they had the powerful love of the community on their side.
“Our community — they sent us coffee and donuts and food and gifts. We had students making 3-D masks for us, trying to help. When you see people, you know, children bring in signs to be posted in the emergency department — I’ve never seen that in my career,” said Bryant. “To keep this incredible community spirit that we’re seeing now going, that will go beyond COVID and that will be the lasting impact, and not the tragedies we’re seeing.”
These unsung heroes may not be the first people you see when you walk into the hospital, but rest assured, they’re there, forever keeping a watchful eye out for any harm that could be on the horizon.
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