On this day one year ago, Chaffee County was in the midst of an abrupt introduction to COVID-19 in our community in the form of 12 confirmed positive cases. Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center had assembled its primary COVID-19 response team, and Dr. Erika Gelgand rose to the occasion as HRRMC’s medical leader and infection prevention expert.

Looking back, I’d like to share a glimpse into just a few of the numerous activities we were managing in an effort to combat the virus at this time last year:

• Managing the challenge of acquiring personal protective equipment, as well as training and fit-testing all medical staff who would be treating patients, as we had one COVID-19 positive patient hospitalized.

• Crafting policies and care guidelines specific to the pandemic for all employees and staff to follow.

• Working through the American Heart Association recommendations for cardiac arrest resuscitation. 

Identifying service areas with potential need for reduction or temporary discontinuation of services in order to protect patients and staff.

• Activating a labor pool used to reassign staff members whose primary jobs were temporarily discontinued to other departments that had additional staffing needs. 

• Engaging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services waivers for launching telehealth for our patients.

On top of these and other initiatives, there were many rapidly-occurring recommendations and changes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as Chaffee County Public Health orders and modifications to stay informed of. 

Dr. Gelgand was highly involved in making key decisions with every aspect of these initiatives, and immediately engaged to keep Chaffee County community members safe. 

The many hats Dr. Gelgand has worn throughout the pandemic were evident in her additional roles: Participating in weekly community town hall meetings hosted by Chaffee County Public Health; contributing in HRRMC employee town halls to give accurate and up-to-date medical information to staff and answer questions whenever needed; leading regular meetings with physicians and staff; and making herself 100 percent available to the COVID-19 incident command team. She also volunteered her time to the Salida school district as a medical resource.

One year later, she remains a steady and confident leader as we continue testing and vaccinating in the community. We are beginning to experience a reduction of COVID-19 cases in the community, and we feel it is important for HRRMC to recognize Dr. Gelgand as directly contributing to this. 

She is a pleasure to work with and remains consistent, kind and even cracks a joke or two to keep things lighthearted when needed throughout this journey. Dr. Gelgand is gem for Chaffee County— and we thank her for all she does!

April Asbury is the vice president of patient services at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center. April holds a master’s degree in Nursing and leads HRRMC’s hospital incident command team for COVID-19 throughout 2020.

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