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Health personnel thankful as pandemic recedes

MARTINS FERRY — Health officials, the medical community and the people they serve have much to be thankful for as the severity of COVID-19 decreases.

Physician’s assistant Maggie Hodge at East Ohio Regional Hospital recalls the nature of hospital operations at the height of the pandemic.

“Obviously opening this hospital during a pandemic has been a little interesting, but I have to say our staff picked up something awesome. I’m proud of the entire hospital for sure. They did a great job of taking care of the community during COVID. I’m really thankful this holiday season it seems to be a little more mild,” she said. “I think we’re all taking a little better precautions. … Wash their hands, if they’re sick stay home. We’re very thankful the numbers are down.”

The hospital reopened in 2021. Hodge had been a staff member prior to the hospital’s closing in 2019.

“We’re doing well, and I’m hopeful we’ll be here for many, many years,” she said. “I’m very grateful to get it back up and going.”

She said the hospital leadership has been most thankful for the staff.

“I think the hardest part of COVID and trying to open a new hospital was there was no protocol set in stone. We kind of had to do the best we could every day with what we were given, but we had great staff. Every day we didn’t know what would be thrown at us, but the team would just pick up really hard to really get everything together to do the best for the patients and the community, and I think they did a pretty good job,” Hodge said. “Everybody was really willing to step up and do things above really what they were hired to do, just to take care of patients, which is what makes a difference.”

Hodge said the patients have also expressed gratitude at the slow return to normalcy.

“I think the patients are so happy that we’re here, and we’re happy about that also. I think patients now are finally feeling a little reprieve at being able to get out and actually come back to the doctor. We’re seeing people come back to the office we haven’t seen in a few years because of COVID. It’s been nice to see some patients who’ve kind of been hibernating because of COVID and so now that things have become a little more opened up, more relaxed and coming back for their routine health care, which is nice to see, too. We’re kind of getting back to a little consistency in seeing patients for their routine care,” she said.

She added there is reason to be hopeful for the future.

“COVID I don’t think is going away anytime soon, but we’re learning how to manage it better,” she said. “Patients are a little more aware of healthy living. … I think this hospital in general is on the right direction. … I tell patients every day, keep doing the little common sense things.”

Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul’s office bore the brunt of tracking cases and possible infections and alerting people to quarantine. He said there is much to be grateful for as COVID-19 wanes, but he reminds the public to exercise caution, since other, more mundane ailments could return with stronger symptoms.

“We’re glad to see the COVID numbers are down and less serious, but we’re still seeing the COVID,” he said. “What is concerning is the RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and flu numbers that we’re seeing in the valley and how it’s affecting our local hospitals. Again we’re watching that, very concerned about that, and hoping people take precautions and keep themselves safe. We’re coming up on Thanksgiving. People will be traveling to meet other people.”

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