BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Gov. Larry Hogan launched Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Week by presenting a proclamation thanking frontline workers at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie.
The governor thanked an assembled group of frontline healthcare workers for all the work they've put in during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I just came by to, on behalf of all the people of Maryland, express our undying gratitude to all of you, our healthcare heroes who've been on the frontlines working so hard day in and day out," he said. "I mean, you always do it, but over the past nearly two years, it's just been, I know, an incredible struggle. But you've saved so many lives and kept so many people safe."
Kathleen McCollum, president and CEO of the hospital, thanked the governor for declaring multiple states of emergency during the pandemic and for introducing legislation such as the Health Care Heroes Act, a bill that would codify policy changes that expedited licenses for retired health care workers, out-of-state practitioners and nursing graduates.
"All of that has truly helped us to navigate, really, one of the most challenging times that most of us have ever experienced," she said.
Charlotte Holt has been an employee at the hospital for 12 years and works in the Environmental Services division, which helps sanitize the hospital.
"It feels good bc we are not on the front line were on the back line so people don't see what we do," she said.
Dr. Alisa Larbalestrier works in the emergency room, and said the last surge with Omicron cases was unprecedented.
"We had tents out front, we had them before previous surges, but never used them," she said. "This surge we had 200-250 patients a day in the tent alone, so it was exhausting."
Staffing shortages continue to be an issue for this hospital and many others; with about 100 vacancies just for nurses. Now there is an option for some students entering the nursing field to get tuition forgiveness if they join the team.
UM BWMC currently employs over 700 nurses and, on average, has about 170 openings for nursing roles in multiple clinical services and areas, a spokesperson said.
Hogan last week issued a proclamation recognizing the second week of February as Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Week in Maryland.
As of Monday, hospitalizations in the state dipped below 1,200, while the positivity rate is just above 6%, according to data from the Maryland Department of Health.
The governor's office is inviting Marylanders to share stories about their healthcare heroes. Click here to submit your story.
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