Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Solomon Isaac has not forgotten us. He’s an orderly at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and he’s shown up for us every day. During his career at the hospital, he has helped save the life of a visitor who collapsed in the cafeteria and made anxious patients feel welcome and safe. Even as COVID-19 became more common among the patients he cares for, Solomon has not forgotten us.
Same with Marie Pierre, a nurse in the emergency room at Jackson North. Every day, she has asked the tough and brave questions about how we’re making our hospital safe and effective for patients and their caregivers. Even as the number of COVID patients in the emergency room as grown, Marie has not forgotten about us.
It breaks my heart that others in our community — all of whom can make such a big difference — appear to have forgotten about Solomon, Marie and, in fact, all of our neighbors in South Florida.
Your hospitals are drowning. When we reached our first peak in April, Jackson had 167 COVID-positive patients across all our hospitals. We now have more than 400, forcing us to bring in emergency staffing, add shifts and spread our caregivers more thinly than we ever imagined. The spike is similar at every other health system in town. It’s not sustainable and, sadly, we expect it get worse before it gets better.
It offends me that our hospital care teams are desperately trying to stave off the worst consequences of this pandemic, while others refuse to make the smallest of gestures to cut it off at the source.
Where is the civic commitment to truly stopping public and private gatherings, where the virus spreads smoothly and silently, infecting others for days before symptoms emerge?
Where is the community spirit to properly wear masks whenever we’re not at home, protecting neighbors since we cannot know which of us carries the bug?
There will be plenty of time to look in the rear-view mirror and pass judgment on decisions made by government and corporate leaders. Today, we are at risk of drowning, and I’d rather see everyone grabbing life vests rather than fighting about who turned on the water.
If we cannot come together to stop the spread of this coronavirus, there will not be enough beds, enough nurses or enough equipment to treat the sick. We are teetering on the edge of disaster.
I also fear we have been forgotten by too many in Washington. The last two rounds of federal life-support funding were supposed to focus on safety-net hospitals caring for COVID patients but, despite the efforts of some elected officials from South Florida, your hospitals have not received a penny of that funding. In fact, we have not received anything since May, and everything we did receive was burned through by June just to keep the place running. We are now accumulating losses with no signs of recovery.
As Florida emerges as one of the hottest spots — and Miami as the epicenter of that fever — I’m flummoxed that Jackson is expected to shutter our non-COVID services and cut off our major revenue streams even as our expenses skyrocket to unprecedented levels.
Hiring emergency temporary staff is expensive. Paying our own staff unprecedented overtime is expensive. Stockpiling protective equipment and medication is expensive.
As this pandemic wears into its fifth month, I know everyone is tired. I know so many of you are worried about whether your kids will return to school, whether your business will reopen or whether you can find a new job to replace the one you’ve lost.
Our community’s heart is big enough to confront all these challenges at the same time. Please do not forget about Solomon and Marie and every other healthcare provider in the community. Please do not forget about our hospitals. Please — do not forget about Jackson.
Carlos A. Migoya is president & chief executive officer of Jackson Health System.