RMC Prepares For COVID-19 Patients
Green Says Mitigation Measures Are In Place
As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, healthcare officials are working tirelessly to limit the effects of the pandemic on their community. At Roosevelt Medical Center, the workflow has changed dramatically as all efforts have refocused on keeping the coronavirus outside its doors and the community safe.
While RMC has not treated any COVID-19 patients, staff are busy with pre-planning and mitigation measures to ensure they are prepared for the worst-case scenario.
“Our team is working overtime. It is like a military operation, we’re hammering out protocols, setting up potential treatment areas and working out logistics for all possible scenarios. We hope we never need to use the plans we have put into place, but we are ready if we do,” said Jaimee Green, public information officer for RMC.
RMC activated its disaster response, incident command team on March 16 in an effort to ramp up its ability to care for potential COVID-19 patients while maintaining the safety of its long-term-care residents, patients and staff.
Meeting daily at 8 a.m., the IC team have been pouring over policies and procedures while walking through new processes and guidelines handed down by the Center’s for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services.
During the past few weeks, a careful count of supplies has been conducted and conservation efforts have been implemented. Last week, RMC received its’ first of two supply shipments from the state. Currently, surgical masks and gowns are in limited supply.
Coincidentally, prior to the pandemic outbreak, the emergency medical services department ordered six new respirator suits to replace the old ones. While they haven’t arrived yet, the order was placed before many other hospitals placed orders in their efforts to respond to COVID-19. They are also fortunate to have one operational ventilator and another awaiting maintenance. Many similar-sized hospitals have none.
“We are prepared to care for COVID-19 patients at the level we are able to as a small facility with limited resources. Our main objective is to transfer patients to a higher level of care as soon as possible,” Green said.
Like all Montana facilities, the laboratory department is not “testing” patients for COVID-19. They are collecting samples and sending them to the State of Montana Health Lab, in Helena, via priority mail or a courier system that is in place. Collection samples arrive in Helena within 24 hours and, depending on prioritization, results are generally provided back to the collection facility within 48 hours. Currently, RMC has an adequate supply of collection swabs and viral transport media solutions.
Staff have continued practicing their skills, such as the proper donning and doffing of PPE. They are running through patient drills several times a week to ensure everyone is familiar with the flow-of-care for treating isolation patients.
The emergency room has been separated into respiratory and non-respiratory care areas and plans have been made for safely housing potential COVID-19 patients while they are awaiting transfer to a larger hospital.
The leadership team has determined that it is necessary to keep the long-term-care residents away from all clinic, ER patients and visitors. The lobby design presented challenges for creating a barrier. The facility has essentially been split in half, with residents living on one side of the facility and clinic and ER patients being seen and treated on the other.
The residents have been kept away from the front entrance where clinic patients are screened and are then escorted down to the clinic. Activities and meals include social distancing measures at all times. Meals are brought down to the large North 40 activities room and served at two separate times to ensure there is enough space to keep everyone six feet apart. Many family members have stayed connected to their loved ones by calling and sending photos and cards. The activities department is also encouraging people to call and schedule a Zoom or Skype visit.
“While we have to do what is necessary for their safety, we are also focused on ensuring we continue to enable them to do the things that bring them joy and keep them connected,” said Vickie Grimsrud, activities director for RMC.
RMC officials say it is absolutely critical for the community to follow all shelterin- place mandates in order to slow the spread of the virus.
“These orders are bigger than our own self-interests. Staying at home is one of the most effective ways to ensure our facility, like others, does not become overburdened by COVID-19 patients,” said Deb Heckmun, incident commander for RMC. People with mild symptoms should stay home unless their symptoms persist or get worse. The clinic is open and patients are being seen daily. However, many non-essential appointments have been canceled in an effort to save personal protective equipment in the event RMC has to respond to a large number of COVID-19 patients. Leadership is also working toward implementing more telehealth options to enable non-essential patient visits to begin as soon as possible.
In all cases, it is still necessary to call the facility before coming in for any appointment.
“The virus has shown us that while we are all vulnerable, we can be strong and resilient and work together to accomplish extraordinary things. I am very proud of the way staff and the community as-a-whole are working in unison to achieve the best possible outcome for our community during this challenging time,” said Heckmun. For more information from credible sources, visit cdc.gov or dphhs.mt.gov.