Doctors' Day profile: Russell Anderson, D.O., discusses challenges, impact of COVID-19 pandemic

(March 30 is National Doctors’ Day. Hillcrest Hospital South would like to thank our physicians for the dedication and passion they show for their patients. In honor of National Doctors’ Day, we would like to spotlight medical director in the emergency room and president of medical staff, Russell Anderson, D.O.)

When the COVID-19 pandemic first made its way into Green Country a year ago, Russell Anderson, D.O., like many physicians, was uncertain of what to expect.

“There was a lot of unknown, uncertainty by a lot of providers,” said Anderson, the medical director in the emergency department and president of medical staff at Hillcrest South. “We figured in the emergency room we were going to be one of the first to see those patients.”

As his department began to see COVID patients, Anderson noted the staff was able to find a rhythm when it came to administering care. But as positive cases began to increase in frequency, Anderson recalled another challenge began to arise.

“We had to get creative to see the number of patients we were seeing,” he said. “We had to make sure we had enough rooms for isolating COVID patients while still caring for other patients. It wasn’t just an emergency room challenge. It was a hospital-wide challenge.”

Anderson added, “Especially early in the pandemic, we didn’t have answers. We were taking what we had applied to other viruses and applying it to COVID. Some of it did (apply). Some of it didn’t.”

In an effort to anticipate a worst-case scenario, Anderson said temporary walls were erected and doors were added to increase the number of isolation rooms prior to treating their first COVID patient. The teamwork exhibited by the entire Hillcrest South staff throughout the pandemic has left an impression on Anderson.

“It took everyone pulling together. It took a lot of creative thinking to know how we were going to deal with this,” Anderson said. “I saw more in the past year how the hospital requires everyone to function at their best to make it through these things.”

The pandemic hit Anderson on a personal note when COVID numbers surged last fall. Both Anderson and his family, who all tested positive, experienced mild to no symptoms.

Positive cases and hospitalizations have dropped due to the increased vaccine availability over the past couple of months, a welcome sign to Anderson.

Anderson said one of the lessons from the past year has been a renewed commitment to the welfare of those throughout the health care industry.

“This was a different illness than what we’ve ever seen,” Anderson said. “It took a new level of commitment to keep everyone safe.”