PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (CBS12) — As hospitals on the Treasure Coast try to keep the contagious and deadly coronavirus from spreading, patients who are suffering alone without the comfort of their family often turn to hospital chaplains for solace.
At St. Lucie Medical Center in Port St. Lucie, chaplain Father Gabriel Ghanoum sits with the sick and dying, dressed in a facemask, face shield, gloves, and full body cover. He prays with them, holds their hands and reassures them there is nothing to fear.
He and other chaplains, who are all familiar with death, have never seen anything like this before.
COVID-19 has killed people by the hundreds of thousands. More than 400,000 people have died in the U.S. alone, according to the CDC.
The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) provides the hospital data that include the newly-added count for active COVID-19 hospitalizations.
As of today, only 20 hospital beds are available out of the 191 beds at St. Lucie Medical Center. A total of 116 people are currently hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to AHCA data that was published on Feb. 4.
The COVID-19 “currently hospitalized” data only counts persons who are hospitalized with a “primary diagnosis of COVID-19.” This excludes persons with multiple diagnoses in which COVID-19 is a factor but not a primary diagnosis, those who were hospitalized at the time they contracted COVID-19, or any case where a doctor doesn’t feel COVID-19 is the primary cause of illness.
Hospital chaplains may be some of the most critical workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, always there to listen and offer comfort to the ailing and healthcare workers who are emotionally drained.
But the virus has in some ways changed their mission, and now in some cases, they help say a final farewell to patients who are separated from their families because of COVID-19.