BANDON — Early in March, as the full extent of the COVID-19 crisis was just becoming clear, Victoria McNeely knew this was a moment that she had been training for her entire career.
As the Risk & Quality Manager at Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center, McNeely's days are usually composed of reviewing charts, developing improvement methodology and offering guidance to nursing staff and doctors on risk mitigation.
“As soon as COVID-19 cases started spiking in hot spots like Seattle and New York, I knew that we needed to be prepared for COVID in our community,” remembers McNeely. “Even as a rural, geographically isolated community, Bandon has a high population of elderly people and retirees who are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus.”
With the blessing of the hospital’s administration, McNeely immediately organized a multi-disciplinary team of nursing staff, providers and hospital leadership into an incident command response team.
This team is composed of Eugene Suksi, CEO, Incident Commander; Dr. Douglas Crane, MD, Incident Medical Officer; Medical Communications Officer, Victoria Schmelzer, CRNA; Scott McEachern, CIO, Public Information Officer; Debi Ellis, CNO, Operations Section Chief; Dennis Jurgenson, Logistics Section Chief; Jason Cook, Safety Officer; and Victoria McNeely, Liaison Officer.
The initial decision to be made amongst the response team was whether or not to erect the hospital’s disaster tent.
“At that time, we knew that COVID-19 was going to be a major threat because of health care experts saying a vaccine was months — if not years — away from distribution, unclear treatment protocols, and because the virus adversely affected people with underlying medical conditions. We needed to be prepared,” said McNeely. “That’s why we chose to put up the disaster tent and begin preparing rapidly — to make sure that we didn’t lag behind in preparing for this crisis.”
After putting up the disaster tent, preparations quickly went into overdrive. The incident response team began meeting every morning to go over the details of preparing for the unprecedented pandemic. Every day, McNeely led the meeting and coordinated SCHHC’s overall plan of response, serving as a liaison between SCHHC, medical staff, public health and regional medical facilities. In short measure, McNeely and the incident command response team built a comprehensive response:
• Developed and implemented pathways of care and algorithms for nursing staff to follow
• Established screening sites at all points of entry to Southern Coos Hospital and the Multi-Specialty Clinic
• Identified Alternative Care Sites, in coordination with local churches and the city of Bandon
• Sent out regular medical staff updates and solicited input from local and statewide experts
• Monitored and helped procure personal protective equipment (PPE)
McNeely also serves a SCHHC’s liaison to the regional incident command team which is made up of representatives from several local hospitals and medical facilities.
The hospital is also extensively training and drilling staff on infection prevention and key care practices.
“The safety of our staff and community is paramount,” said McNeely. “That is why we have trained our staff extensively. Even if we never have to use the training, it’s better to be over-prepared than not prepared at all.”
McNeely has worked in a number of critical access hospitals across the Pacific Northwest in risk/quality roles that included emergency preparedness. She has learned her role largely through experience and a keen attention to the details of emergency plans. She has also taken FEMA trainings, among many others. Victoria lives in the region and is married to Reed McNeely, who is in leadership at McKay’s Market.
“My passion is for improving the health of our small communities and extending healthcare to everyone, whether that’s through population health, offering better systems to access advanced directive information, or through increasing preparedness about critical health issues like COVID,” states McNeely.
More information about Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center’s COVID-19 response and timeline for recovery may be found at southerncoos.org/covid19.