Law enforcement recognizes health care workers during pandemic

Agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection lead a convoy of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies Wednesday in a procession of gratitude for local healthcare workers at Valley Baptist Medical Center Brownsville. The convoy visited five locations in Cameron County to show their gratitude to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.(Denise Cathey/ The Brownsville Herald)

A winding line of law enforcement vehicles blaring sirens and flashing lights led a caravan through the parking lots of five area hospitals on Wednesday morning in a show of unity and gratitude to the hard working individuals who have fought for months inside packed emergency rooms to save lives.

Nurses, administrative staff, and integral workers who don’t often get recognition, like kitchen staff, held up signs, waved, and cheered as officers drove past in an impressive caravan of vehicles.

Law enforcement with Brownsville, Harlingen, Los Fresnos, and South Padre Island PD, as well as State Troopers, the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office, Brownsville Emergency Management, Cameron County Emergency Management, the District Attorney’s Office, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection participated in Wednesday’s event, the second organized this year in honor of workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The procession started at Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville, then made its way up Highway 77 to Harlingen to greet employees at Harlingen Medical Center, Valley Baptist Health System, and the  University of Texas Rio Grande Vallley School of Medicine campus.

Outside Valley Regional, nearly 100 employees gathered at the hospital’s main entrance. Kitchen staff held up trays marked with messages of gratitude and support.

The hospital’s Chief Operating Officer Lauren Davis, who has been at Valley Regional for around a month, said she’s particularly proud of the camaraderie among staff.

“They go above and beyond to take of each other. They treat everybody like family, and it’s just amazing to see how engaged they are with each other, with the patients, with the families,” said Davis.

Next to Davis stood Edward Stiner, Valley Regional’s Assistant Chief Nursing Officer. He has worked at the hospital for 15 years.

“We’re very humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve gotten from the community, especially from our community partners. Any little thing to help raise morale has been greatly appreciated,” he said.

Asked how the community can assist hospital workers, Stiner answered that people can “continue to social distance, wash hands, and to try to stay out of the hospital. But, we are here if they need us and we’re glad to take care of them.”

Officers made their way through the Valley Baptist Medical Center campus for a final stop just an hour later. Leslie Bingham, CEO of Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville, told reporters that hospital staff is beginning to realize the scope of their efforts following months of battling the virus.

“I got tearful the first time they did it. At that time, we had kind of a sense of what was to come. Some of the staff at that point may not have really recognized how much they really were heroes,” said Bingham of the caravan.

“Now, there’s absolutely no doubt in any of the team members’ minds, any of the law enforcement, and really anyone in the community that this is an incredible group of heroes in our hospitals. We have an overwhelming sense of gratitude right now.”

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com