▶️ St. Charles caregivers talk about stress, fear of COVID-19 care

By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on health care workers.

Doctors, nurses and medical technicians are working long shifts wearing layers of Personal Protective Equipment as they treat patients with the highly infectious disease.

“Are either of you interacting with COVID patients?”

“Oh yeah. Both of us. All the time. Plenty.”

Tyler Gartland is an emergency room technician at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.

Aubrey Legrimas is a radiology technologist who runs Xrays and C-T scans.

“It’s nerve-wracking. It’s scary. We are exposing ourselves, our families, I have 2 kids. We feel guilty coming home at the end of shift bringing that home,” Lagrimas said.

During 10 to 12 hour shifts, both wear gowns over their scrubs … gloves … masks or respirators … and face shields as necessary.

Gartland says safety protocols in the hospital started as an airborne precaution, then switched to a droplet precaution. 

“We wear yellow gowns to protect clothing. The emergency room staff initially was issued N95 respirators, it’s literally like a painting respirator that we wear for 10-12 hours a day,” he said. “Those feel pretty safe, now. For a while there we were reusing the masks, just like the rest of the country.” 

Gartland and Lagrimas say they are provided adequate protective equipment they need to stay healthy.

“Given a worldwide shortage of supplies, St. Charles has handled themselves really well. I do feel prepared, like I have the tools that I need to stay safe,” Lagrimas said.

The two say hospital staff are stressed and worried, but still joke among themselves and try to keep spirits light.

“We have such a great team at the hospital. We are all doing the best we can,” Lagrimas said. “I think for the most part people are just showing up. You know everybody can do something. For the general public it’s like staying home and not spreading it. For us it’s showing up for work and doing what we can do to help.”

“We had a bunch of face shields donated to us. We are getting a bunch of cloth masks. Not the same as N95s but we are still getting them. I think we are doing great now and I just hope that people continue with social distancing,” Gartland said. “Because… if that were to stop I think things would change. If no one listened and didn’t do that I think things would be terrible.”

In addition to doctors and nurses, Gartland and Lagrimas say they want the public to know about unsung heroes in the battle with coronavirus, including respiratory therapists who help COVID-19 patients breathe and environmental services crews working round-the-clock to keep the hospital clean.

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