Lending a Healing Hand

April 22, 2020

On April 21, 34 nurses from four Colorado-based Centura Health facilities made their way to the northeast region of the United States, one of the areas hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Colorado has recorded 10,106 confirmed coronavirus cases compared to the nearly 90,000 New Jersey has seen.

Our nurses from Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Westminster and Frisco have been serving on the front line for several weeks of long days caring for our communities. However, with the serious COVID-19 situation on the east coast, they were willing to step in and answer the call to fly to New Jersey, where they will assist three hospitals and provide some much needed relief for staff there who have been working seven days a week in an intense environment.

Denver's Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila met with our caregivers before their journey for a Blessing of the Hands.

Kevin J. Slavin, President and CEO for St. Joseph Health who also serves as Board Chair of the New Jersey Hospital Association, requested the support and resources from Centura Health President & CEO, Peter D. Banko. Slavin and Banko have a deep history of serving in leadership roles for Christian-based health systems, having served together more than 10 years ago in New Jersey health care. These two leaders shared the urgency for staffing support in hard-hit areas of New Jersey and coordinated through the Catholic Healthcare Partnership of New Jersey to help three member hospitals. Those sites include:

  • Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth, New Jersey
  • St. Joseph’s Health, Paterson and Wayne Campuses, New Jersey
  • Saint Peter's Healthcare System, New Brunswick, New Jersey
Our health care heroes gather for a photo before leaving for their three week mission to care for communities in New Jersey.

“We are called to extend our healing ministry to our communities when they need us most and our 21,000 caregivers are rising to today’s challenge, meeting the wholistic needs of individuals and neighborhoods in Colorado and Kansas, and now in New Jersey,” said Peter D. Banko, President & CEO, Centura Health. “The team that has miraculously assembled exemplifies the spirit of the sisters and brothers that came before us, and I know they will respond to the care needs before them with courage, compassion, and love.”

Wanting to support those caring for the ill in their local communities, Centura asked members of our connected ecosystem who were presently not able to work due to low hospital census volumes and the postponement of elective surgeries and procedures, if they would carry out this special mission. Registered Nurses with Medical Surgical experience and with Emergency Department experience, along with an administrator serving as an ambassador, accepted assignments at these New Jersey facilities facing staffing challenges amidst the demands COVID-19 is placing upon their communities. Our caregivers will work for a minimum of three weeks, up to four, as a part of each New Jersey facilities’ care team. They will be paid for this deployment and receive the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) per CDC guidelines, for their assignment.

Our incredible nurses on their way to New Jersey wave goodbye before heading through security at Denver International Airport.

“This assignment felt right to me. The thought of people struggling and dying alone tugs at my heart; we need nurses who want to be there,” expressed Mara Doyle, RN, Centura Health. “I always pictured myself doing this work and I’ll be there to hold any hand that needs mine.”

To provide additional medical support for residents, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that physicians licensed to practice medicine in another country but living in the United States could now apply for a temporary emergency license to practice in New Jersey---the first program of its kind in our country.

The region is presently in tremendous need for experienced caregivers to serve temporarily on the frontlines during this pandemic. New Jersey has a reported 85,301 positive cases with nearly 7,000 people hospitalized across the state. They have also suffered 4,202 deaths from COVID-19, five times the amount of loss experienced by this state in the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Disasters take many forms, and the present pandemic calls upon many professions and communities to help. Centura is grateful to United Airlines for providing free roundtrip air travel for this mission.

United Airlines honored our caregivers with an amazing water salute as they took off from Denver International Airport.

We also thank Archbishop of Denver, Samuel J. Aquila, for meeting our caregivers early in the morning before their flight for a Blessing of the Hands. Blessings and appreciation for the healing touch these hands will bring to others!

Lastly, we thank the family members of these dedicated caregivers for their support and sacrifice as these team members share their experience, clinical expertise and compassion with those who need their help. We appreciate you!