There is a lot of emotion going on in a hospital the size of Medical Center Hospital and it is the gargantuan job of recently appointed new Chaplain and Director of Pastoral Care Doug Herget to deal with it and make things as good as possible for the patients and their families and friends.
Following the venerable Chaplain Farrell Ard, who died in April, the Rev. Herget had volunteered at MCH since 1990 and he was already quite familiar with the 200 volunteers and the 20-25-member core group of pastors who counsel those who are being treated and those who worry about them.
“Farrell was a great man,” he said. “He loved people and he was very ecumenical, the same with everybody, denominational, inter-denominational, he didn’t care what church you were a member of or even if you were religious.
“We try to be here for everyone in their time of need.”
Herget is a native of Missouri who graduated from high school in Quincy, Ill., came to Odessa at age 17 with his family, studied at Odessa College and the University of Texas Permian Basin and took a degree at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Ind. He is the longtime pastor of Odessa Tabernacle Church, where he continues to pursue his extensive ministry to the homeless. Herget and his wife Cindy have a daughter.
“Our volunteer chaplains are very loving and kind, just a great bunch of folks to work around, being with patients and their families to provide comfort and spiritual guidance, whatever they need,” he said. “They come from all around the Permian Basin and we couldn’t do what we do as well as we do it without them.”
MCH has 402 beds.
“It’s not like it used to be where you could just walk in and start volunteering,” Herget said. “We do background checks. The volunteers fill out applications and get letters of recommendation from their home churches signed on church letterheads by the senior leadership.
“We live in a more dangerous world where we have to be aware of potential active shooters because hospitals are considered soft targets, so we work very closely with hospital security.”
Herget said MCH is in many ways a polyglot institution with multiple languages being spoken. There are enough staff members and volunteers who are bilingual in English and Spanish to help patients and visitors who speak Spanish only, but there are also Filipino staffers who speak Tagalog and the online MARTTI (My Accessible Real-Time Trusted Interpreter) System is often employed with its ability to sound out any language in the world.
“We see a lot of people from different cultures and backgrounds,” Herget said.
Hospital President-CEO Russell Tippin said Herget is the perfect successor to Ard.
“Chaplain Doug is synonymous with MCH and we can’t imagine this place without him,” said Tippin. “His dedication to our patients and their families is second to none.
“Doug is here at all times day or night to make sure every single patient and family is prayed for and taken care of in their times of need. He is the selfless and spiritual leader that every health system yearns to have.”