ALBANY — Nearly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing amount of information has been revealed not only about the virus, but the widening gap of health care and economic inequality.
We see VIP patients access the best hospitals, doctors and experimental treatments while, simultaneously, we view horrific images of overcrowded ICUs, patients alone in hospital hallways and refrigerator trucks doubling as morgues.
We see pre-COVID income inequality widening from the financial fallout the pandemic has wrought; closed businesses, job loss and the shameful failure of the federal government to provide relief.
For many people, these conditions mean a turn to public, safety net programs such as those run by CSEA members, who continue to provide essential services.
County Health Department workers are overwhelmed with contract tracing while public health programs are meeting the needs of the uninsured and underinsured who have nowhere else to turn.
Celia Evers, a nurse at the Albany County Department of Health, described the challenges surrounding the pandemic and how workers maintain a steadfast commitment to residents.
“We nurses are the front line for the County of Albany. Work, pre-COVID, was all clinic work. [We were] seeing patients for immunizations, personal issues and tuberculosis,” Evers said.
“The virus has increased anxiety for everyone, irrespective of what field you work in.”
Even in difficult circumstances, Evers said county health employees are still working to provide quality care to all county residents who use their services.
“What we once knew as basic daily protocols and procedures are out the window,” Evers said. However, we try to do our best to provide immediate services to the best of our abilities. If we are unable to provide services a patient may need, we strive to coordinate care with other facilities so patients’ needs are met.”
As COVID-19 infection rates once again surge, safety-net health facilities are seeing an influx of patients who have lower incomes and unable to access care.
“Low-income families are particularly hard hit by COVID,” Evers said. “The patients we see are experiencing financial and medical hardships that have increased disproportionately to the rest of the Capital Region.”
Evers added that the nurses at the Albany County Health Department are playing a pivotal role in trying to counteract the disruption in lives caused by this pandemic.
“We continue to serve our community the best way we know we can,” Evers said. “All CSEA members are really stepping up in serving the public. It’s wonderful to see how everyone is going above and beyond to help or residents in these trying times. We’ve been working hard to rise above the illness and we will continue to do so.”
— Therese Assalian