Hospitals take care of the public, and it is time for the community to take care of its hospitals, according to a coalition of health care providers.

The VProject is a grassroots community initiative in Northwest Ohio to educate, motivate and vaccinate residents in the region and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The project’s goal is to vaccinate 70% of the community.

That, in return, will alleviate the stress being felt at area hospitals.

“We’ve asked our hospitals to take care of us. At this point, the community has to realize it’s up to all of us to take care of the hospitals,” said Sean Savage, who initiated the project, during a virtual news conference Tuesday.

The VProject includes the Wood County Health Department, Wood County Hospital McLaren St. Luke’s, Mercy Health, ProMedica, The Toledo Clinic, the University of Toledo Medical Center, Wood County Hospital and Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

Physicians from all local health care systems outlined the current COVID-19 situation in local hospitals and what the public can do to help.

Dr. James Tita, with Mercy Health, said as a pulmonary critical-care physician, he has seen the toll the pandemic has taken on patients and the community.

He said this fourth surge of COVID has created more patients than ever. Because of the sheer numbers, it has put a stress on hospitals and health care systems.

“On a per capita basis, Ohio has one of the highest hospitalization rates in the country,” Tita said.

Coupled with this surge in patients, they are also facing an unprecedented shortage in caregivers, he said.

It has been estimated that since the start of the pandemic, 500,000 healthcare workers have left, Tita said.

“This has severely strained out ability to care for patients,” Tita said. “As a result, hospital systems throughout the country are struggling to care for and continue to provide the high care and compassion that our patients expect and deserve.”

Of the 600 patients in the Mercy system, 25-30% have a COVID-related illness. In the ICUs, nearly 50% of critically ill patients are sick with COVID pneumonia.

In Ohio, 92% of patients who are hospitalized have COVID, 19% are unvaccinated and 96% of the patients who die due to COVID are unvaccinated.

“It’s very important to get vaccinated,” Tita said.

Do not go to a hospital ER to be tested, he said. A mobile testing site is at the Lucas County Recreation Center, where 1,500 tests can be administered a day with turnaround time around 24 hours.

“We know that masking limits the spread of virus,” he said. “Not only in terms of protecting ourselves but more importantly in protecting our communities.

“And also, for those who are unvaccinated, get vaccinated as your best defense from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID pneumonia.”

Dr. Wayne Bell, at Wood County Hospital, said he came from Canada 26 years ago. There, he was used to stacking patients in the emergency room.

“I never thought I would see it here,” he said. “But lo and behold, here we are.”

At the Falcon Health Center last week there were 1,000 PCR tests done and 42% came back as positive for COVID.

“We all seem to know someone who has had COVID, even those who have been vaccinated,” Bell said. “But believe me, the ones who have been vaccinated have less difficult time and are certainly at less risk.”

Dr. Michael Ellis, at the University of Toledo Medical Center, said over 90% of those admitted to UTMC are not vaccinated and the deaths that are occurring are in unvaccinated patients.

Getting vaccinated “may not prevent infection … but it prevents people from dying,” he said.

Ben Robison, Wood County health commissioner, said getting the booster shot will change the trajectory of what your experience will be should you encounter COVID.

“There’s a lot of COVID in our community circulating,” he said, “and there is a very high risk of being exposed right now because of how high the case rates are.”

Getting a booster not only reduces the risk of getting the disease but it also increases the likelihood of being able to recover at home, Robison said.

“This is a huge thing we can do right now to help our hospitals is to give ourselves the best chance to reduce the impact on our communities,” he said.

In Wood County, the most vaccinated group is age 65 and over and nearly three-quarters of them have gotten the booster shot.

He said Wood County continues to offer vaccination clinics at the health department on Mondays 1-5 p.m., Tuesdays 4-7 p.m., Thursdays 9-11 a.m.

Hospitals are overwhelmed, said Dr. Brian Kaminski, with ProMedica, due to the high volume of COVID patients plus staff illness.

Every emergency department in Lucas County has been on EMS bypass, he said.

“The vaccine is designed to prevent disease,” said Dr. Stephen Bazeley, at McClaren St. Luke’s in Maumee. “If the public wants to reduce the stress on the current pandemic, get vaccinated.”

Dr. Karl Fernandes, at the Toledo Clinic, said that healthcare workers are overwhelmed. The question is not only how does an exhausted nurse take care of patients, but the intangible of how they go home and react with the family.

Get more information by visiting