(This is the first of a two-part series on local health care in the Galesburg area. You can reach Jeff Holt at email@example.com)
By Jeff Holt
Published January 6, 2022 in The Burg
Across the nation, there has been a nursing shortage and the Intensive Care Units (ICU's) have been stretched to their limits.
Nearly everyone has a heartfelt story of a family member (or a good friend) who has had a difficult time with COVID-19.
And locally, the recent news (reported) of Cottage Hospital losing their Medicare and Medicaid patients has been a tough pill to swallow.
Can they stay open?
That is the big question. This has been extremely tough on several local residents - Cottage Hospital has been around since 1892 and was known for several years of hiring top-notch graduates from Bradley University.
The Burg newspaper did reach out to Cottage Hospital recently but they declined to comment at this time.
Still, several others in the Galesburg area do wish them the best during this difficult time.
"One message that I really want to come through - loud and clear, and this is very genuine - our hearts do go out to the (Galesburg) Cottage (Hospital) staff providers and patients," said Lisa DeKezel, the President of OSF Healthcare St. Mary Medical Center in Galesburg. "I want to truly show that respect and that is how we feel. It is always difficult to see when a hospital in a community experiences that, and our hearts go out to them. Any opportunity that we can support them. It is a shift in the community and we understand that. We've been praying for them."
Continued DeKezel, "It is such a small community and everyone is interconnected. There are a lot of family members here and we have a lot of former Cottage staff that work here now. We are really working to support them, and we want to make sure that message of compassion for them comes through. We understand it is a difficult time for the community and ones that have utilized Cottage for years."
An update of St. Mary's Hospital ...
DeKezel said they have close to 10 positions open for nurses and - at press time - they were planning a large recruitment fair (on Jan. 4).
"Nationwide the nursing shortage has really affected everyone," said DeKezel, who has over 25 years in healthcare. "We are hiring and training every day. We are blessed and we have a great corps team."
Plus, DeKezel said she thinks they will continue to see spikes with COVID-19 and then it will level off. She called it a "rhythm" that they will be on for some time.
"Every day is just managing the patients correctly and our team is doing a great job of managing that," DeKezel said. "We're no different than everyone else."
DeKezel also said that the ICU capacity is another issue everyone is faced with across the nation.
However, DeKezel said they are currently adding three more rooms to their ICU department.
"We hope the community sees the growth, the recruitment, the commitment and the progressiveness - all of that is geared to supporting our rural communities," she said. "We are still rooted to our community and highly-committed to our community. We're not going anywhere and we'll be here long term."
The mission of St. Mary's Hospital - it's just how they roll ...
Have you ever known a successful farmer? They have a system in place and they often go by the motto of: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
In a roundabout way, that's how they lead at OSF. They lead by their faith and they've done it for several years.
"We are a Catholic healthcare organization. We lead by our faith and the mission of our sisters," said DeKezel. "That is to serve with our greatest care and love. We are very open about that here at OSF. We are openly compassionate and loving. It's what we do first. Business comes second if that makes sense and that is how we lead. We are very open about that here at OSF."
DeKezel went on to say, "Our mission remains unchanged. We are strong, we're growing and we're here to serve and support our communities. We're here to meet the demand. We have been preparing ourselves to do that."
DeKezel just enjoys going to work each day at OSF and it quickly shows when she talks about her job and her role at St. Mary's.
"For me, it sets a culture of love and compassion," said DeKezel. "You are going to feel that when you walk into an OSF facility - love and compassion. We respect all patients regardless of their religious preferences, ethnicity and their culture. We approach all patients the same way. We treat everyone with respect and dignity across the board. That's how we hire and they will be treated the same way."
Volunteering at OSF ...
If you would like to volunteer at OSF, you can contact Shelley Willet at 344-9449 or you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Willett is the Volunteer Coordinator at OSF and she can fit your personality with what type of volunteer work you would like to do.
"Shelley (Willett) is highly committed," said an enthusiastic DeKezel.
And the pride they take in volunteering is another level.
"We have wonderful volunteers and our chapel was donated by a wonderful local family," continued DeKezel. "The way we serve is just not in medical care ... it is all encompasing. Even the little touches like the gift shop and all the wonderful things like our auxillary does. Our chapel is always available to those in need and our pastoral care team here. We just have a lot of support systems wired in here to support our community and our patients. There is a true sense of family and community and compassion."
Commitment to OSF and a special song ...
DeKezel said that even after retiring one day - she still sees herself volunteering at OSF.
And she might play that popular song - one of her favorites (by Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill) - an extra time or two called "How Great Thou Art."
(If you would like to nominate someone in the medical field or if you have a certain idea for a topic in the medical field, you can reach Jeff Holt at email@example.com or call him at 309-368-0303.)