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Open Letter to the Community

By Michele Kidd Sutton, FACHE

President and Chief Executive Officer

On April 20, North Oaks employees, doctors and volunteers celebrated 60 years of serving as the region’s primary health care system.

From the humble beginning of Seventh Ward General Hospital, we have grown to the largest community-based hospital organization on the Northshore. We now encompass a 330-bed acute care hospital, Region 9’s only Level II Trauma Center, a 27-bed medical rehabilitation hospital, a free-standing surgical center, two diagnostic centers and the region’s largest multispecialty provider clinic network. Health system operations have a $2 billion economic impact in our region, and we support more than 100 community events annually through volunteer, in-kind and monetary sponsorships.

But the people behind these statistics – the North Oaks family – and their commitment to improving the health of our patients is the constant that has driven our growth and success for more than 60 years.

During the last six months, I have borne witness to the unwavering dedication and compassion of our staff as COVID ravaged our state in the early stages of the pandemic. These extraordinary professionals worked tirelessly to establish a separate ED triage process for symptomatic patients, manned a COVID hotline to quickly triage people who believed they may be symptomatic and help them get the appropriate care, and countless other acts that saved lives and calmed fears.

As best practices evolved to keep people and organizations safe, our team worked closely with state, parish and local government officials on response plans; collaborated with our media partners to get needed information to the public; and shared their expertise with other health care providers about the proper fit and use of personal protective equipment and effective infection prevention practices. We partnered with community organizations to help businesses resume operations safely. Working together, we all helped flatten the curve and prevent untold infections and deaths in our community.

I saw nurses comfort patients who were unable to have visitors due to government mandates – arranging video chats with family, getting that extra ice cream and coaxing smiles from patients, many of whom were facing the biggest health challenge of their lives. I saw them comfort one another on the worst of days, and celebrate together when we successfully discharged a patient.

And all the while, the “normal” business of the hospital continued. Healthy babies were born – we welcomed little Brix Hodges – a third generation baby delivered at North Oaks Medical Center in February. His father, Lance Hodges, was born at North Oaks and his grandfather, Larry Hodges, was the FIRST baby born here on the day North Oaks opened its doors. Stroke patients continued to receive state-of-the-art care. Helicopters continued to bring trauma patients from falls, automobile crashes and accidents to the emergency department.

Working in health care humbles a person. We see people at their most vulnerable, and are privileged to be a part of their lives as they navigate illness, recover from injury or welcome a precious new life into the world. We’re proud to be your community hospital, and our resolve to improve lives and calm fears; educate providers, patients and caregivers; and have a positive impact on our economy and the community remains steadfast.

And on behalf of the North Oaks family, thank you for the support you have shown us for the last 60 years, and the last six months. The outpouring of supplies, hand-made face masks, meals and countless acts of appreciation have truly kept us going during this very difficult time. We appreciate you – our family, friends and neighbors – and look forward to the next 60 years of caring for our community.