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Protect the people and things you care about

The following is a joint letter to the editor submitted to area newspapers for publication the week of November 9. The letter is signed by three area hospital CEOs, including Todd Willert from Community HealthCare System. 

Dear citizens of northeast Kansas,

Across the state, we are hearing calls of distress from our colleagues in healthcare. Hospital beds and intensive care units are filling to capacity. ER doctors and nurses are struggling to keep up with the patients coming through the doors, and staff members are spending hours on the phone looking for a bed to transfer patients who need higher levels of care for heart attacks, stroke, or other conditions. Hospitals and nursing homes are facing dire staffing shortages that endanger our ability to provide needed care.

We are also hearing cries of dismay and frustration from nursing home and assisted living residents who want and need contact with loved ones, and from family members who want and need to visit them.

We are hearing from worried parents who are seeing some schools in our area quarantine increasing numbers of students and even move to hybrid or remote instruction. Parents don’t know how to hold their jobs and care for their families if school isn’t in session. They are also worried about watching their students’ opportunities to participate and compete in activities and sports evaporate. 

We are feeling the same dread as everyone else. We are just as deeply fatigued from COVID-19 as everyone else. But we know what we need to do to fight the pandemic, and we are asking for your help.

Until a safe and effective vaccine is approved and available in our area, we have limited tools to stop the spread of COVID-19. One is to wash or sanitize hands frequently. The second is to avoid gatherings and to maintain social distancing. The third is to wear a mask.

Flu season is here, and cold weather is approaching, so it’s time for everyone to act on the data and recommendations of infectious disease experts and healthcare professionals to use all three tools. Handwashing is simple enough, but the other two have proven more difficult. Data from around the state have shown that mask wearing does not stop transmission completely, but it does slow the rate of increase in COVID-19 cases. Wearing a mask protects others who may have underlying heart or lung conditions, who may be related to someone with a compromised immune system because of chemotherapy, or who may appear healthy but could require hospitalization and intensive care if infected with COVID-19. We can’t predict who will have a mild case of COVID-19 and who won’t, so protecting everyone by wearing a mask will avoid more severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in our area.

Avoiding gatherings is also a difficult but necessary action we must take. Official gatherings at which people are masked and distanced are generally not a huge problem, but more informal situations in which individuals do not take precautions have been a major source of spread in our area. Limiting  a few birthday parties and family gatherings now could literally save the lives of some of your family members, and it could ensure that children stay in school, winter sports seasons move forward, and healthcare facilities maintain their ability to provide the best possible care to patients. Slowing the spread could also mean that holiday visits could still happen with loved ones in nursing homes. If positivity rates remain high or continue to rise, regulatory authorities will require nursing homes to remain closed.

We ask all readers to please do all you can to stop the spread of COVID-19 in northeast Kansas. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Avoid gatherings. Protect the people and things you care about.


Kiley Floyd, CEO
Nemaha Valley Community Hospital & Seneca Family Practice

Todd Willert, CEO
Community HealthCare System

Carrie Saia, CEO
Holton Community Hospital & Family Practice Associates


1 comment

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  • Darlene Whitlock | Nov 8th 2020 @ 12:25 PM

    Excellent healthcare leaders! Darlene and Gary Whitlock

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