Sumner Regional CEO says COVID surge was 'preventable,' urges public to 'take action now'

Sumner Regional Medical
Posted at 3:47 PM, Aug 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 16:48:38-04

GALLATIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Sumner Regional Medical Center CEO Susan Peach wrote an open letter to the community detailing health care workers' frustration and exhaustion while responding to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.

"Our current COVID-19 situation is worse than it has ever been," the letter states.

Peach explained that health care workers are struggling to keep up as the number of COVID cases increases due to the Delta variant.

"Sumner Regional Medical Center is overburdened and operating at the very edge of our capacity. And today, I am pleading for your help," Peach writes.

She says COVID-19 patients make up more than 40 percent of the hospital's inpatient census. Since Aug. 1, the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital has increased 300 percent, with the majority of them being unvaccinated.

Peach asks for people to get vaccinated. she also encourages anyone needing medical attention for a treatment that is less severe or not life-threatening to consider visiting an urgent care clinic.


To the citizens of Sumner County:

Our current COVID-19 situation is worse than it has ever been. It is heartbreaking, frustrating and exhausting – but above all, it is PREVENTABLE. The Delta variant has torn through our community, our hospital and the healthcare system in our state with a vengeance I have never seen in my 45 years in healthcare. Like most healthcare facilities in our region, Sumner Regional Medical Center is overburdened and operating at the very edge of our capacity. And today, I am pleading for your help.

Tennessee has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, with a mere 40 percent of the population fully vaccinated. And our own community’s 37.91 percent vaccination rate is even lower than the state average. The burden this low vaccination rate has put on our system is unsustainable. In fact, the number of COVID-19-positive patients we have admitted to the hospital has increased 300 percent since August 1, and the vast majority of these individuals are unvaccinated. Our facility is primarily caring for very sick COVID-19 patients, who make up more than 40 percent of our inpatient census right now. We are doing everything we can to manage the rapid increase in patients while also continuing to care for the ongoing, non-COVID-19 healthcare needs of our community. Despite these efforts, our system is strained, and our people are tired. I won’t sugar coat it…these are dark days.

The hardest part of what we’re facing right now is knowing this is avoidable, and with your help, we can turn the tide against COVID-19. First and foremost, getting vaccinated greatly reduces the likelihood of someone contracting the virus, being hospitalized or dying. If you are on the fence about getting vaccinated, please pick up the phone and call your physician to talk specifically about the vaccine. More than 95 percent of all physicians are vaccinated because they know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Each vaccine administered is a bed saved for someone having a heart attack, stroke or other potentially life-threatening illness. Additionally, we strongly encourage our community to take other precautions that we know are effective in slowing the spread of the virus, including wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and continuing proper hand hygiene. When ALL of these measures are consistently practiced, they will help lower the transmission rate and reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in our community.

Even in the midst of this public health emergency, we strongly urge our community not to delay essential and emergency care. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 9-1-1 or head to the nearest ER. You may experience longer wait times, but you will be seen. If your condition is less severe and not life-threatening, please consider seeking care and treatment at an urgent care clinic or your primary care provider’s office so ER staff can focus on the most critical needs.

I long for the day when this pandemic is behind us and we are finally free from its devastating grasp. I want nothing more than to walk into work again and see the smiling, happy faces of my team members and a hospital that is not completely full with very sick – and scared – people. But the only way we will get there is if we all do our part by choosing to protect ourselves and others using every tool we have available – especially getting the vaccine. Vaccination is the primary way we will avoid further overwhelming the healthcare system here at home, in our region and across the state.

On behalf of our team of healthcare heroes at Sumner Regional Medical Center, I implore our community to take action now. We need you, just like you need us. Please sign up to be vaccinated today, and don’t let yourself or someone you love be the next victim of COVID-19.

Susan Peach CEO, Sumner Regional Medical Center