If you asked associates working on site at Southeastern Med, “How’s it going” they would likely respond, “It’s very different.” Many healthcare workers in Ohio where cases have yet to surge also describe it as “quiet” in their facility. Our community is preparing for what has yet to come with the anticipated COVID-19 surge.
Southeastern Med has moved to a no visitor policy, except for acute or end-of-life situations, births and accompanying minors. We have also postponed elective procedures, leaving typically bustling areas of the facilities nearly vacant.
Though things seem serene now, doctors and associates are using this time to plan and ensure processes are in place for when the surge does hit. “We are prepared”, said Wendy Elliott, President and CEO of Southeastern Med, “but continue to make adjustments as more information about how the pandemic will play out in the State and our community becomes available.”
Southeastern Med has been planning and preparing based on what the hardest-hit hospitals in other parts of the United States have encountered. “The lead time, along with collaboration with OhioHealth, COTS (Central Ohio Trauma System), and local public officials has allowed us to prepare and remain calm,” Elliott said.
Dr. Acton has been using the hurricane analogy to describe the current COVID situation in Ohio. There is a rough idea of where the virus will hit hardest, but it is not an exact science, and there is no definitive way to predict how many cases or deaths will result.
In anticipation of the surge, Southeastern Med has made significant provisions to ensure we are fully prepared and ready.
Southeastern Med, together with the Superior Med Physicians Group, is asking patients to call if they feel ill instead of coming in for a well or ill visit. This allows providers to keep schedules clear for coronavirus patients and send people who might have the disease to a testing site. It also keeps medical personnel at the hospital from having to use masks and gowns that might be needed later.
The postponing of elective surgeries order made earlier in March by Gov. Mike DeWine has also helped conserve resources.
Much of hospital preparation has focused on preserving supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline associates treating COVID-19 patients. “Thanks to the amazing dedication of our hard-working materials management team and generous donations from local businesses, we are ok for now,” said Ed Conaway, Vice President of Medical Affairs. “We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
Southeastern Med is implementing innovative ways to serve patients and family members while keeping associates and the community safe. The hospital is offering virtual visits for patients to speak to a Chaplain or their loved ones. Most of the Superior Med providers are also using Telehealth to visit with existing patients via video or telephone.
Infection Prevention, together with materials management, are working diligently on PPE conservation methodologies. Guidelines have been distributed to all associates as to when N95 masks versus regular facemasks are needed. The new technology Battelle implemented now allows for sterilization of N95 masks. Associates are being asked not to wear make-up or lotions, as masks with debris remnants cannot be reclaimed.
“We’re trying to preserve the important supplies that we have,” said Gina Woods, Chief Nursing Officer.
Instead of seeing patient after patient, Elliott said doctors and hospital leaders have spent the past several weeks on conference calls and virtual meetings to put together contingency plans for the best- and worst-case scenarios.
Inside Southeastern Med’s incident command center, Elliott and others are focused on getting the hospital through the pandemic. They’re approaching problems such as ensuring associates wear the appropriate level of protective gear, where to put patients as they recover and what staff can be redeployed to provide critical care.
“We’re viewing this right now as the expected preparatory phase. We’ve had to make a major shift,” Conaway said. “I have been very impressed by the caring and the commitment of our frontline providers … It has amazed me.”
Our goal is to ensure that we are here for the residents of Guernsey , Noble and surrounding counties. Please reach out with any questions or concerns to our COVID Hotline number at 740-435-COVI.
Marjorie J. Clayman, Marketing & Communications Manager
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