Alexandria, La. – One year ago this week, Rapides Regional Medical Center became part of history as it confirmed its first COVID-19 positive patient.

“It was a day we had planned for,” said Jason E. Cobb, FACHE, Rapides Regional Medical Center chief executive officer. “For weeks we worked on stocking supplies, updating protocols and decided how, where and who would care for these patients.”

Over the past year, Rapides Regional had the honor to care for 2,376 COVID-19 patients to date.

“It was a year like no other,” said Barbara Griffin, MSN, RN, NE-BC, chief nursing officer. “We had staff living in campers to separate themselves from their families. We had staff who went out their way to make sure their loved ones were healthy and that they could still effectively care for their patients. There was so much we didn’t know at first. But we knew it was our job to take care of the patients.”

Across the country, some hospitals made the decision to lay off employees, but Rapides Regional Medical Center, which is a joint venture of HCA and The Rapides Foundation, did not reduce staff and in fact, was able to provide pandemic and quarantine pay for employees. That partnership also meant RRMC teams were supplied with adequate PPE, employee health support and on-site testing for symptomatic employees.

“We are proud of our owners and the work done behind the scenes that allowed us to take care of our employees in that manner,” Griffin said. “Allowing our staff to feel that support during one of the most stressful times of their career allowed us to focus on patient care which was priority.”

Over the course of the year, physicians and staff learned more about the virus and the best way to treat patients, which meant fewer patients were intubated – and over time, mortality rates fell. Louisiana saw four separate COVID surges, but as of today, hospitalization rates for COVID patients across the state are lower than they’ve been since the pandemic started.

“Our frontline workers have worked through the first wave, the second wave and now this third and fourth wave,” Griffin said. “The arrival of the vaccine in December brought with it a boost in morale and hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight.”

So far more than 23,000 residents of Rapides parish have received the vaccination.

“This is a year that has changed the face of healthcare,” Cobb said. “It could be one of the most important years in our employees’ medical careers, and it could certainly be the most memorable. It is not over, but today we know more and have hope as more receive the vaccine.”

Five RRMC employees have shared their COVID-19 journey, which relives some of their most memorable aspects of the past year. These short videos can be found on the hospital’s Facebook page this week. In addition, a special prayer ceremony will be held to reflect on the patients, as well as the physicians and employees who cared for them.