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Sarah Bush Lincoln President & CEO Esker provides pandemic message

A message from Jerry Esker, SBL President & CEO, 1/6/22
Many of us hoped this pandemic would be winding down, but we are now in a place beyond anything we have experienced thus far in the pandemic.  Sarah Bush Lincoln is operating in a designated ‘disaster mode’ so that we can provide the care our community needs.

The pandemic-related stories you see on the national news are no different from what we are experiencing here. For more than 18 months, Sarah Bush Lincoln has been operating mostly on peak census, which means there are very few open beds available for patients.  Today there are 39 people hospitalized with COVID-19, and eight patients are on ventilators. Another 25 are being cared for in our COVID @ Home Program.

We have made space for hospital beds in our Cath Lab, Surgery recovery area, in a clinic in the hospital and in an unused area. It may not be the most optimal space, but nonetheless, it is a clean and functional area where patients can receive much-needed care. We have created 70 negative pressure rooms to contain and clean the air in rooms used by COVID-19 patients. Our team meets multiple times a day to make decisions on where to place patients depending on which ones need a higher level of care and which ones may be discharged. I applaud those bed planners who come to know our many patients and their needs.

We have temporarily postponed elective inpatient surgeries because of a lack of bed space. We will do all we can to reschedule these cases as quickly as possible. We fully understand the logistical issues involved when planning a surgery and are very sorry to postpone those plans.  All emergent surgeries continue, of course.

We have been the regional hub for the administration of monoclonal antibodies, an infusion treatment for people who are in the early days of COVID-19. These infusions help curb the symptoms and aid in a quicker recovery. For months on end, we primarily treated people with the Delta variant. Now, a large percentage of those testing positive have the Omicron variant. Our region has a very limited amount of infusion medication that is effective on this variant, and so we must prioritize the highest risk COVID-19 patients and administer it to them first. Fortunately, this newer medication is effective on both variants. When the oral medication becomes available, we will use that as well.

And while the news is all about COVID-19, we are experiencing a spike in Influenza, along with several other viruses and respiratory illnesses that typically flare up in the winter months.  Across the nation, healthcare workers who have a natural passion for care, are burning out and leaving the field. Healthcare can be difficult in the best of times, but for the last 22 months, our staff members have done extraordinary work with the hope that the vaccine was the light at the end of the tunnel.

Capacity to care for our patients has been pushed to the limit.  Our staff is strained, but we are here to care for you, to support you and to give you the best of ourselves.  We need your help.  The vast majority of patients hospitalized for COVID at SBL are unvaccinated.  Our wish this New Year is simple — take one more step to protect yourself and those around you. Please get vaccinated and boosted.

If you need a COVID-19 test, make an appointment at the Mattoon Walk-In Clinic at 217 238-3000. If you want a vaccine, just go to our Mattoon or Charleston Walk-In Clinic during the regular business hours or make an appointment at our Effingham Walk-In Clinic at 217 540-6123. If you are ill and need care, please seek care at your provider’s office, at one of our four walk-in clinics (Mattoon, Charleston, Tuscola and Effingham) and in urgent cases, the Emergency Room.

Stay Well,
Jerry Esker
SBL President & CEO

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