Open Accessibility Menu

Open Letter to the Community

By Michele Kidd Sutton, FACHE

President and Chief Executive Officer

North Oaks health care professionals are instinctively driven by a calling to protect, comfort and care for others in times of need and vulnerability. In the heat of crisis or emergency, their expertise becomes amplified by a valiant sense of purpose to touch hearts, save lives and give those in their care the strength to overcome the threat at hand.

Without exaggeration, it can truly be said that at no other time in the history of our health system has this sense of purpose been more evident. While we certainly
faced our share of challenges in 2020 during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, none of us could have imagined finding ourselves at ground zero of
Louisiana’s fourth and deadliest COVID-19 surge this summer. With the Delta variant capitalizing on lagging vaccination rates and attacking a much younger population, Tangipahoa Parish became the No. 2 county in the nation for percent positivity, according to The New York Times.

We started seeing our numbers go up early July. To put the situation in perspective, the peak of hospitalized patients with the previous third surge had been 66. This time around, we peaked at 109 hospitalized patients at one time. This meant that more than half of our available hospital beds were occupied by patients with COVID.

As the world looked on via the reporting of international, national and regional news outlets, our weary but battle-ready team relentlessly set about combatting a
disheartening setback in the worldwide fight against the pandemic.

It was common for us to be boarding an average of 25 patients with a peak of 42 in the Emergency Department waiting for an inpatient bed. To keep up with the demand for beds for COVID-19 patients, we even had to suspend all elective procedures and support services and redeploy those staff members from July 11-September 17 to work on the floors as direct care givers or nursing support personnel.

To support our efforts, the North Oaks Foundation partnered with concerned and corporately responsible businesses and citizens to stand up an innovative “COVID
100” program to boost vaccination rates. The brainchild of Tom Enmon, the COVID 100 initiative used $50,000 in funding from donors to offer $100 cash to 500 individuals to complete the Pfizer vaccine series. The appreciation we have for the many who literally saved lives through their support of this initiative is boundless!

After nearly six long weeks and just as we started to realize a reduction in COVID cases, the tropics hurled Hurricane Ida our way on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Our facilities remained open and weathered the storm, but for 1 week post-Ida, our hospitals operated on generator power. As the arduous recovery process in our region got underway, patient care continued without fail at our facilities because of the sacrifice and commitment of our team coupled with the coordinated support and leadership of Tangipahoa Parish officials. Even the eyewall of a major hurricane proved no match for the North Oaks team’s devotion to improving lives or Team Tangi’s care and concern for parish residents.

North Oaks Health System’s resilience is a credit to our endlessly resourceful and brave employees who always find a way to persevere even in the most adverse of circumstances and personal loss. Their commitment, engagement, compassion, care for others and creativity is awe-inspiring and serves as a beacon of hope for our community.

I can truly say that I have never been more grateful for or prouder to lead North Oaks’ extraordinarily heroic team. I try to thank them every day and encourage you to do the same.