I’ve been asked a lot lately by concerned family and friends, “How you doing?” since they know this is a stressful time for those of us in health care. I’ve decided it’s like being a Trojan soldier, waiting for the Athenians, who are gathering off the shores of Troy. We know the battle has arrived, we just don’t know how bad it will be, the actual toll or the numbers of fellow soldiers who will be lost.

Dr. Kenneth Krell

Dr. Kenneth Krell

I have never been so proud as I am now to be associated with the remarkable, dedicated, courageous people I work with. All of us face this with anxious anticipation, and we all know we are in this together, from my physician colleagues who know they may be asked to treat a kind of patient they don’t usually care for, to our nurses who are on the front lines delivering care, to the therapists, aides, monitor techs, and housekeepers who work to ensure our safety, to the materials people keeping us in supplies and all the non-clinical support staff who keep us running smoothly. We are all in this together, united, resilient and prepared.

As the referral center for the community and region, we understand our obligation, and we have the capacity and the ability. Watching the professionalism, the competence and the compassion of the staff is always the kick that keeps me going, but never so poignantly as now.

And we are prepared. We have two missions — protecting our staff and caring for the community and region, and weeks of planning, every day, have gone into preparedness. We have been frugal in utilizing our precious scarce resources, for instance, using masks longer than they were designed for, but that has allowed us to always be masked when potentially exposed. And we’ve been innovative. We’re about to start re-sterilizing N-95 masks to ensure that staff can wear them at all times, protecting themselves, their patients and their families when they go home.

We are prepared to handle this increase in volume. Far from sitting idle before COVID-19, we often work near capacity, so the challenge was finding ways to expand. Those plans include the ability to triple our capacity, including emergency room triage, intensive care unit beds and ventilators, with the staff to care for those patients. Supplies and manpower will continue to be challenging, but we have the will and the expertise to get this done, with good people behind the scenes designing the “surge capacity” and scrambling to conserve and find equipment and supplies, ensuring staff and patient safety.

You can help. The most important, absolutely essential task for you now is to stay home. Every time you venture out you risk getting infected, and while you personally may not get very sick, you risk spreading the virus to someone vulnerable, risking their lives, the lives of healthcare workers and putting further strain on this stressed system.

Many of you are essential. I can’t overstate my admiration for our Emergency Medical Services workers, who know the risk, make difficult triage decisions and professionally carry on. Help protect them. Certainly, there are other essential occupations. For instance, we need my son-in-law, a diesel mechanic, out there keeping those big trucks running, bringing us supplies and food and other essential commodities during this crisis. So if you’re essential, be careful. Do your best to maintain social distance. We need you healthy. And if you’re not essential, please, please stay home through this difficult time.

Hopefully, with an abundance of caution, you won’t need us. But if you do, we’ll be there. We’re ready.

Dr. Kenneth Krell, MD, works in the division of critical care at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.