Dothan health care workers give glimpse of working in the pandemic

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 6:30 PM CST
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - The state sees another increase today in hospitalizations, now caring for over 2,000 COVID patients.

As Alabama reaches one million cumulative COVID case, News 4 spoke with front line workers in Dothan hospitals on Wednesday, to get a glimpse of their daily life as the pandemic continues. Both who have been on the frontlines since the beginning of this pandemic, and said it has taken a toll mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Mollie Sims is a clinical supervisor at Southeast Health. She said there are countless, unforgettable memories from this pandemic.

“COVID made healthcare and nursing change at what felt like overnight,” Sims said.

A quick change, forcing adaptation on front line workers, trying to keep their patients and employees safe, while fighting the unknown.

“Well, I’ve done this for over 40 years and I really never thought I would see an illness where I didn’t know what to do,” Dr. Allen Latimer, intensivist at Flowers Hospital, said.

Dr. Latimer reflects back to March 2020 when the virus was first confirmed in Alabama, and the concern that came with it.

“Our friends, our employees, were potentially being exposed to an illness that might be fatal,” Dr. Latimer said.

Dr. Latimer said this is an illness like none other.

“We’ve had sick people die, throughout the years, but I’ve never had anything where whole families died,” Dr. Latimer said.

Since 2020, healthcare workers have been on what feels like a roller coaster of surges. Once numbers decline, they pick back up.

“We have to kind of take that hat off and put our COVID hat back on,” Sims said.

Heading right back into another surge, on the front row.

Right now, Sims said current patients are not as sick as previous COVID patients they have had.

“But there is just a lot more of them, there’s so many of them,” Sims said.

Sims said these patients are having to stay longer.

“We’re used to a really high turnover rate on our floor, and we don’t have that anymore, they come and stay because they are so sick,” Sims said.

Dr. Latimer said even if a small percentage of patients become hospitalized, it is still straining hospitals because they are caring for both COVID and Non-COVID patients.

“Our hospitals are very stressed, our units are full, we have employees becoming sick, it’s been extremely hard for the hospitals to manage,” Dr. Latimer said.

These health care workers are still managing, being strained and adapting with each surge, and the heartbreak that comes with it.

“I have had plenty of patients that, you are literally holding their hand and when they pass or when they got to get back on the ventilator or get on the ventilator, and it’s harder to leave it at work,” Sims said.

They ask the community to be smart and careful to get this virus behind us. They say the support they get from the community helps keep them going in their efforts to fight the pandemic.

“I talk to them about it everyday, about how brave they have been, about how they have gone beyond expectations,” Dr. Latimer said. ”We’ve had a lot of very great employees and they have worked hard and not complained, it has been extremely difficult for them because they have taken care of people for days on end and they’ve watched and they’ve known sort of, ‘this person is not going to survive,’ and they went from being on a little bit of oxygen to more oxygen and then oxygen by a non-invasive ventilator then onto the ventilator and so they became like members of their family and that was very hard on everybody.”

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