Memorial Regional Hospital Medical Personnel Reflect On COVID

CBS4's Hank Tester shares their story.

Video Transcript

- And now to year one into the pandemic, a look at how emergency rooms operate and how hospitals work. Never before have we seen-- had such insight. As CBS 4's Hank Tester reports, the pandemic not only made us familiar with hospital operations, they also gave us a better understanding of how the pandemic has impacted those behind the surgical masks.

HANK TESTER: Another day in the ER at Memorial Regional Hospital. A regular day, they'll tell you, has not always been that way. Going back a year, a year of COVID-19.

RANDY KATZ: Early on, when our first patients would come in, everybody was very scared. We didn't know-- we didn't know what was going to happen. We didn't know how sick these patients were going to be.

HANK TESTER: Medical personnel knew what COVID was, but how to handle it, how to treat it, how to protect staff? That was a daunting unknown.

RANDY ALFONSO: There's a lot of fear. So the fear factor played a big part, I think, with all of us. You know, not knowing whether you're going to make it home without bringing an infectious disease to your family.

HANK TESTER: Gradually, as more was learned, treatments explored, procedures refined, routines established--

RANDY KATZ: We had to come in one day and put up our first tent. We've been through several iterations of it. We went through a smaller tent, and then we went to a bigger tent, and then we went to both tents, and then back down to just the one that you see here behind me.

HANK TESTER: Screening work. What was learned was not every COVID victim had to be hospitalized. Some could self-monitor at home. Only the sickest went into the ER and admission. Staff rotation, staffing up to meet the impact. Did it make it easier?

RANDY ALFONSO: I've been doing this for over 20 years, and there's definitely nothing that I've been involved with, whether it was a mass casualty or infectious disease outbreak, that has posed this much of a challenge over such an extended period of time, and has really, I think, dramatically impacted all facets of health care.

HANK TESTER: The ER staff, the treating physician saving lives, losing some. Day after day, early on, equipped with personal protection gear, armed with the latest treatment procedures, yet staffers--

RANDY KATZ: They were afraid that they were going to go home and give this to someone that they love. That aside, I think that they handled it like you wouldn't believe. Like, they would come in every day, smiles on their faces, ready to go, ready to take care of people. And they were just very brave about the whole thing.

HANK TESTER: Tearing down one of the tents. More of the population being vaccinated. Progress against the pandemic. ER COVID admissions down, but docs here say do not let your guard down, and--

RANDY ALFONSO: This is what we do every day, but I think COVID-19 has really uncovered, you know, the truth of what we do and, you know, the selflessness that we practice medicine with. And you know, just sometimes putting our own lives at risk to save somebody else is something that we do all the time.

HANK TESTER: Doctors foresee that the population is going to be wearing masks for a long time, and they say that COVID-19 is a disease we're just going to have to get used to living with. I'm Hank Tester, CBS 4 News.