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Coast health system celebrates National Hospital Week with optimism, some concerns

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 8:52 PM CDT
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Registered Nurse Kelly Cumbest -- like almost every health care worker who faced the pandemic -- saw more death in the past year than in his entire career.

So a celebration like National Hospital Week was a welcome opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief.

After more than a year of coping with the stress of the pandemic, Singing River Hospital System is enjoying the week-long celebration.

The culmination of the week’s events was a party on Friday, allowing the system’s 3,000 employees in Pascagoula, Ocean Springs and Gulfport to get out and enjoy the weather and a free meal.

“It’s been a lot of hard work the last year,” said Cumbest, the emergency department patient care manager at SRHS Pascagoula. “It’s been great to be able to be around people and socialize a little bit more than we have been. Our mandates are getting smarter, our choices are getting smarter, the vaccine works for a lot of people, so it helps us come back to a new sense of normalcy.”

In Mississippi, an average of about 200 people are still being infected by the coronavirus daily and people are still dying, but far fewer than just a few months ago. Getting more people vaccinated is the state’s next challenge to keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed again. But it’s difficult.

“You talk to different people and everyone has their own little twist on their reason,” Cumbest said. “Some of it’s political, some of it’s fear, some of it’s they don’t believe in the science, some people say it’s a brand new immunization technique and they’re fearful of that.”

Cumbest said he believes educating the people on the benefits of being vaccinated will be the key to a greater immunization rate.

“There’s not a singular reason and that’s what makes it more difficult. You can’t fix or educate on one thing. You have to educate on a bunch of different factors,” he said.

With only 27 percent of Mississippi’s population fully vaccinated, healthcare workers still face an uphill battle before they can celebrate the pandemic as a thing of the past.

“You’ve got to find the data that proves the vaccine works and advertise that and educate on that,” Cumbest said.

Singing River held celebrations at their Ocean Springs and Gulfport hospitals earlier this week.

Don Barron of the SRHS Board of Trustees was out talking to the employees on Friday, personally thanking them for their work.

“We’re real proud of our hospital system and everyone that works here and puts forth the effort to come to work every day and take care of our patients,” he said. “This is some small way we can recognize them with a fun time and forget the little cares that they have back on the floors or where ever they come from.”

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