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Police, firefighters parade for hospital staff

SALISBURY — A rainy day in Salisbury couldn’t stop a parade of first responders in front of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

A small parade of emergency vehicles made a loop around the hospital with lights and sirens blaring for the small number of hospital staff who gathered outside. Firefighters hopped out of their trucks for a moment to wave before taking off in the direction they came.

The collection of people from local police and fire departments organized the parade to recognize the work of the people at the hospital. Like hospital workers, hospital president and CEO Gary Blabon said, police officers and firefighters are also on the front lines interacting with the public.

“It just lets our team here know that the community recognizes the hard work that they’re doing,” Blabon said.

Lately, Blabon said, the hospital is seeing high numbers of COVID-19 patients, but it has remained below capacity. Statistics released last week by the Rowan County Health Department showed 101 of 115 hospital beds allotted for COVID-19 patients in use.

“It is taxing,” Blabon said.

Desiree Dunston, senior director of professional and support services, said the parade left a good feeling that the community is still supporting the hospital.

“We do rounds on a daily basis on our team members just to check in on them and see how they’re doing,” Dunston said. “You can see the exhaustion in their eyes, but they know that they went into this for a reason.”

Emergency Department Nurse Manager April Gaither said seeing some first responders take time to recognize the people at the hospital is “huge.”

“There’s a mutual respect between us and all of our public service partners,” Gaither said.

Months ago, shortly after the pandemic arrived in the United States, emergency responders also paraded in front of the hospital. At that point, there were a handful of cases in Rowan County. Now the county, state and country face much higher infection numbers.

Gaither said the main concern for the hospital is the overall volume of patients, which can lead to long wait times in the department. Gaither said the larger numbers of people coming into the department is new territory.

Gaither said people not taking the pandemic seriously can be nerve-wracking. However, she said it’s easy to be critical. Hospital staff, she said, need to remind themselves they are health care professionals and have a job to educate people.

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