Parkland Hospital staff treated to 'Thank Our Heroes' lunch event

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taken its toll on America’s health care system.

Across the country, there are still efforts to thank those frontline workers who are still spread pretty thin.

Parkland Hospital has been at the forefront of treating COVID-19 patients throughout this pandemic.

At its peak, there were approximately 300 COVID patients there. As of Thursday, there are only 28.

Thursday morning, hospital staff was treated to a "Thank Our Heroes" lunch event.

Those working there talked about the ongoing challenges with a new variant circulating.

At Parkland Hospital in Dallas, some of the medical staff got to take a much-needed break from their demanding jobs.

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas partnered with Texas Instruments to host a "Thank Our Health Care Heroes" lunch.

"Help you understand how much you mean to folks in the community," one person said.

The event recognized the effort and sacrifice local health care professionals have continued to make throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We just wanted to say thank you to all of the health care providers for getting our community healthy," United Way of Metropolitan Dallas President and CEO Jennifer Sampson said.

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At times during the pandemic, Parkland Hospital was inundated with COVID-19 patients.

At its peak, there were some 300 patients hospitalized in several COVID units.

"It's been tough, it’s been draining. We've lost a lot of staff to pursue other careers," Parkland’s Chief of Emergency Services, Dr. Jeffery Metzger, said.

He said the pandemic has been a challenge for his ER staff.

"Our volumes in April of 2020 were way less than we normally see. A lot of it was COVID," Dr. Metzger said. "All of the other patients just weren't showing up. That's kind of getting back to normal."

"I think we've shifted to a phase of, how do we live with this now?" Parkland CEO Dr. Fred Cerise said.

Dr. Cerise said staffing shortages continue to be a problem.

As of Thursday, the hospital has 504 posted bedside nurse openings.

"It’s just been the long haul of this. The constant change in practice and operations to deal with this ongoing pandemic. People get tired and it can wear on them," he explained.

Dr. Cerise is concerned about the emerging Omicron variant.

He said the hospital is supplementing staff with temporary workers as they rebuild their workforce.

For healthcare workers determined to stay the course, Thursday's lunch was a welcomed change of pace.

"To get to this point, it feels like we can catch our breath, but not too much of deep breath but to keep pushing forward and serving our community," Parkland ER Service Manager Angela Peterson, said.

Keurig Dr. Pepper will contribute K-Cup pods of coffee for Parkland’s break rooms, as well as bottled water for 850 health care workers to pair with their lunches. 

Parkland employees also received 100 thank you cards written by people from across North Texas.