It was only 730 AM but there were already twenty people waiting in seats outside the crowded office. I was directed to a table where five people dressed in hospital scrubs were filling out forms. I approached one whose ID badge read “Supervisor”.
“Excuse me, I have an appointment at 745 AM.”
He motioned to the open door and told me to sign in. As I waited to be seen, dozens of other employees came through and signed in. All were there for the same reason. They were being tested for COVID-19 after being exposed while caring for patients at this hospital.
I was sitting in employee health at the hospital where I am a faculty member. About three months earlier, I was informed by my program coordinator that I needed to take my annual TB test. Three months in these days of a worldwide pandemic may just as well be a year. The entire hospital was radically transformed, since the last time I stepped foot there six months earlier. Temporary tents were set up in the parking lot to screen patients for COVID-19. Security was tripled at all entrances. Even employee health was transformed with an additional triage area set up outside the main office in which I now sat.
As I surveyed the changes, a woman came out to greet me. “Good morning, Doctor. I’m sorry, why are you here?”
“My program coordinator scheduled me for my annual TB test.”
She frowned as she continued. “Your program coordinator should have told you that all non-essential testing, including TB testing, has been postponed.”
I nodded. “I completely understand. I actually spoke to him last week because I was concerned the COVID-19 may have changed normal protocols, but he reassured me that I was still scheduled.”
She closed her eyes for a second before she looked at me and said, “Well, I’m sorry. We are overwhelmed with COVID-19 testing and we don’t want to risk you being exposed.” She smiled and took my paperwork. “Let me reschedule you when things are less busy.”
I was embarrassed and quickly fumbled an apology, “I am so sorry to have disrupted your workflow.”
She smiled as she handed my paperwork back to me. “No worries. We just want to keep you safe. I will see you in two months.”
We have all seen the terrifying images of health care workers and first responders in numerous hospitals where the COVID-19 pandemic is exacting a terrible toll. This was the first time I personally experienced it in an acute care setting. As I exited the hospital, I gave thanks to God for the hundreds of employees and patients at the hospital, asking Him to protect all of them and quickly heal those who are afflicted. All of my medical colleagues are currently dealing with very ill patients that require urgent attention for many diseases other than COVID-19 but my colleagues in this and many other hospitals are different. They are bravely and unselfishly placing themselves in a potentially lethal situation to care for their patients and I am grateful to support them. I recommitted myself to caring for my patients with the same urgency and dedication that my colleagues are courageously caring for their COVID-19 patients.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
Medicine does not punch a clock and disease may strike anyone at any time. Crises like the current COVID-19 pandemic remind all of us that there may be unequal sacrifices asked of those who are caring for the ill. We all need to be supportive, through any means possible, for those who are on the frontlines. Above all, it should encourage all of us to pray unceasingly for God’s grace, mercy, and love for all who are affected by the virus.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.