Sheri Eschete has spent more than three decades in healthcare and she’s never seen anything like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The assistant vice president ancillary services for Ochsner Health Systems oversees labs, the pharmacy, infusion center and cardiopulmonary centers at Ochsner St. Anne’s Hospital in Raceland and the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma.
Ochsner was monitoring the spread of COVID-19 from the beginning, but talks about South Louisiana began to pick up in the first week of March. That was a lot to take in for Eschete.
“You talk about it, you hear about it, but you don’t think it’s going to happen to you in your town, in your small area,” she says. “That first week seemed like an eternity. It just kept escalating really quickly. What really brought it to light for me, was when the churches shut down.”
Eschete says the focus of her role now is to support hospital staff and make sure they have what they need. That includes physical supplies, like masks, face shields, goggles, gloves, isolation gowns, ventilators and other protective gear. It can also be about providing moral support.
“My role pales in comparison to what the people on the front lines are doing,” she says. “We’re here to be empathetic to their situation. It’s new to them, it’s new to all of us. We’re all scared. So we need to make sure we support them and make sure they have what they need.”
There have been challenges when it comes to supplies, but Ochsner has been able to get what they needed quickly because of their national connections. That includes coronavirus tests that take 5 minutes to produce results.
“We knew we needed to get testing and we needed to get a better turn around time on those test results. We needed transport media to send them off. We needed supplies, and we really had two weeks to get this done,” she says. “That’s the good part of being in such a large healthcare situation, we have been able to get these things and rely on guidance from the system rather than figure it out on our own. Having relationships on a national level has really helped us bring those services to our community.”
In times of crisis, Eschete says it’s important to hang on to hope. Feeding her hope has been the support form the community.
“Food always makes everyone feel better, and the communities in Raceland and Houma have stepped forward feeding the day and night shifts at both hospitals,” she says.
If there is anything good that comes from the pandemic, Eschete believes it has raised awareness among the community to the sacrifices that healthcare workers make, and to the seriousness of taking care of your health.
“Everybody plays a role and at this point, it makes us proud to see how the community is reaching out with support and recognizing what our healthcare workers are going through,” she says. “There’s a saying written on one of our white boards and it says, ‘We fall, we break, we fail. But then we rise, we heal, we overcome.’ That’s perfect for our people and our situation.” –Jacob Batte