It’s not politics, and he says he has “no dog in this fight,” he’s “just trying to save lives” at Great Plains Health

Emergency room doctor speaks about rising cases and tired staff
Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 10:40 AM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Dr. Jim Smith is the Director of Medicine for the Emergency Department at Great Plains Health in North Platte. Thursday afternoon Dr. Smith called a meeting from the Emergency Department with the media in hopes of getting the word out about the ongoing pandemic, reminding people it is not over.

In fact, according to Dr. Smith, cases are rising with as many as a dozen COVID-19 positive patients, including a recent death, being seen locally.

Dr. Smith believes in the vaccine, and even though it is true he has treated patients with COVID-19 who have been vaccinated (breakthrough patients), there is good news. He says the symptoms and severity of illness are much less with the vaccine onboard. He knows things like washing hands, staying home when sick, social distancing, and wearing masks in close spaces are helping. He says he had zero influenza patients during the flu season.

And now, the region is seeing a significant uptake in cases. Dr. Smith says the people being admitted to the hospital are patients without the vaccine.

Dr. Smith says health care providers are tired.

Dr. Smith says the system is stressed, and nationally people are leaving the vocation because they are tired, and tired of risking their lives. While Great Plains Health is “staffed fine,” according to Dr. Smith, he would really appreciate everyone reaching out to the staff at Great Plains Health and give them support if able.

Dr. Smith says it may be due to the push to vaccinate the elder population early-on, with higher vaccination rates in an older population, but now with the majority of cases being seen as the Delta variant, these cases are being seen more frequently in the younger population. The Delta Plus variant according to Dr. Smith is “stickier” and more contagious, but those being vaccinated with current vaccines are better protected in his opinion than those who are not. Dr. Smith says hospitals are filling up again. Great Plains Health is taking patients from as far as other states to help due to lack of beds, (one of the initials problem many were hoping to avoid).

He says to keep hospitals open there are protocols being put in place to help treat people at home as much as possible to deliver important health care without tying up inpatient resources at the hospitals.

Dr. Smith says Great Plains Health is getting involved in a Phase Two study now, with approval for an inhaled medication for COVID-19 that may be given as an outpatient treatment.

Dr. Smith says he gets up every day, and he loves his job taking care of people. He says he likes a challenge, but he would be okay if COVID-19 would not challenge the hospital anymore. He says it is hard watching his staff and co-workers - from nursing staff, diagnostic and imaging, to administration - working through the pandemic.

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