“We’re still here” health professionals reflect at end of public health emergency

“We’re still here” health professionals reflect at end of public health emergency
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 5:31 PM EDT
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NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - The Department of Health and Human Services has declared May 11th the end of the federal Public Health Emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic.

A viral breakout that was only expected to last a few months has now turned the country and the world upside down over the past three years.

Some of the many workers on the frontlines, healthcare workers from CarolinaEast Medical Center – some who even had personal battles with the virus – to reflect on the long road that was the past three years.

“It’s great to be able to return to something that looks like normalcy you know we’re not wearing masks anymore at least not right this week,” said ER Nurse Amy Moreis.

But even though the Department of Health and human services has ended the public health emergency for COVID-19, health professionals say this isn’t the feeling they expected.

“It is a relief when you hear it but I don’t know that it feels like this is the moment,” said nurse Christie Herbst.

Resource nurse, Ryan Buttner says he’s experienced the pandemic in the hospital as not only a nurse, but also as a patient, contracting the virus not once, but twice.

“A long time before I felt able to work a full 12-hour shift and I just felt like I couldn’t do it so I ended up taking the had to take a break and went to another position and luckily I made it through you know it is difficult to return back after you experience something like that,” he said.

Doctors spotlight the ability of themselves along with nurses, and staff to adapt on the fly through it all.

“The one thing about this particular wave that came out is that was constantly mutating we tend to have patients here who I’m going to say are probably a little bit sicker we have a rural population that doesn’t necessarily have the access to healthcare that they may do in urban population I think that we work much more nimble and much more adaptable than a larger a lot of larger academic institutions may have been,” said Dr. Andre Dean Frederick.

Hospital records show more than 100,000 COVID tests were performed, and more than 2,500 COVID patients in the hospital since the start of the pandemic.

But despite the hallways being much calmer, Buttner’s message to the community and to the world – especially during national nurses week – is that the fight goes on.

“We’re still caring for them the best we can even though we are battling some nursing shortages now and other difficulties we don’t we’re not heroes we’re not winning medals we just want to the respect and the people know we’re doing the best we can and we’re recovering like everybody else and we’re getting everybody through this.”

CarolinaEast’s records show roughly 8,000 of those 100,000 tests were positive, and show over 90% of their COVID patients were discharged since the start of the pandemic.