U.S. Sisters Push for COVID Vax as Healthcare Staff Face Burnout
After 18 months of turmoil, stress and watching COVID-19 victims die, caregivers at Catholic health facilities are reaching their limits.
“With the delta variant and the number of people who have chosen not to get vaccinated, this fourth COVID surge is the worst they’ve seen,” saidBrian Reardon, Vice-President of Communications and Marketing at the Catholic Health Association, which includes more than 600 hospitals and 1,600 other health facilities in the United States. “The biggest impact is burnout in caregivers and staff. We’re hearing multiple reports that they just can’t take it anymore.”
The majority of CHA facilities were founded by or remained sponsored ministries of Catholic sister. Since the beginning of the pandemic, those sisters and other women religious have been working on the front lines, treating the sick and pushing vaccination efforts amid the delta variant’s takeover of the country.
“It’s just been 18 months of unrelenting stress,” Reardon said. But this surge is especially frustrating because it doesn’t have to be happening,” he added. “People are in the ICU on ventilators. There is a moral obligation for people to get vaccinated.”
Mercy Sr. Karen Scheer has seen that close up in her work as a physician with Holy Redeemer Health System in Philadelphia where she provides primary care to people who are homebound.
“Our primary purpose in life is to live Gospel values and care for one another,” she said. “Getting a vaccine can be an inconvenience, but it can be life-saving. Many people of color are suspicious and understandably so. In Philadelphia, the Black Doctors Consortium has done a lot to reach out to the communities of color and it’s working. It’s providers of color providing care, and that’s the greatest witness.”
Meanwhile, healthcare officials worry what the burnout of caregivers and staff will do to the industry.
“We’re hearing from our members about how concerned they are about not only current workforce issues, but what it’s going to mean long-term” if people leave the field because of stress and burnout, Reardon said.
There is concern because hospitals are full of COVID patients, other things go unchecked: chronic health problems as well as mental and substance abuse, which the social isolation of the pandemic exacerbated.
“There’s a confluence of crises out there, with COVID at the top,” Reardon said.