COQUILLE — As the number of novel coronavirus cases increases throughout the state, doctors, nurses and staff members at Coquille Valley Hospital (CVH) continue to prepare for a local COVID-19 outbreak.
The hospital, like many others in Coos County, has initiated its emergency, disaster preparedness plan to ensure its staff is ready and capable of handling a sudden influx of coronavirus patients should it spread to Coquille.
The World spoke with Coquille Valley Hospital CEO Jeff Lang Friday morning to discuss the hospital’s preparedness plan as well as the number of policies and procedures it’s implemented over the past month to combat the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining its healthcare services.
Current patient care & visitation restrictions
In an attempt to limit person-to-person spread of the coronavirus and to protect its patients, staff and the greater community, CVH announced earlier this month it would no longer allow visitors inside its hospital or clinic until further notice.
One of the biggest fears the hospital had since the beginning was potentially exposing its staff and other patients to COVID-19, said Lang. As a result, CVH has implemented a number of restrictive measures such as having patients undergo a screening process before entering the hospital.
According to Lang, another precautionary measure that the hospital has put into place includes promoting telehealth visits. The visits, which uses communicative technology, allows patients and their healthcare provides to communicate remotely.
“Right now each of our physicians is seeing about 98 percent of their patient visits via telehealth,” said Lang. “It’s super simple and it’s easy for patients to navigate.”
“I know in Coquille we have a system where if patients don’t have a computer or iPad or internet or any technical ability to do a telehealth visit then they can drive to our clinic and we’ll bring them that equipment out to them and they can do the visit from their car.”
At the moment, physicians at CVH are seeing about 98 percent of their patients via telehealth, said Lang. A small percentage of patients are still being seen by doctors and nurses given that their presence is required for treatment, but again Lang said those patients are being screened.
For patients whose symptoms are mild, it’s recommended they stay home and treat those symptoms appropriately such as getting lots of rest, drinking plenty of fluids and taking over the counter medication if need be, explained Lang.
I think the most important thing that patients can do right now is to follow recommendations from state and local health officials and the CDC, said Lang.
COVID-19 testing guidelines
People who are experiencing respiratory symptoms that are more serious that does require a hospital visit Lang said there are a few things community member can do to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Keeping align with CDC recommendations and other response protocols, CVH also developed a process for people entering the hospital who are experiencing signs and symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.
“First (people) should call the facility that they are planning to go to,” said Lang. “Let them know that (you) are on (your) way and that (you’re) experiencing symptoms that are consistent with the COVID 19 virus that would be things like a fever, cough and shortness of breath.”
Doing so will allow the healthcare facility time to put on protective gear and to safely admit and treat a patient who could potentially be positive for the coronavirus.
“The most important part the public can play in helping us ensure that we have the healthcare workers or the staff to take care of our community when and if this virus hits us hard here is to let us know before you come in,” said Lang.
As of now, people who consult with their physician and they deem it appropriate, folks who display the symptoms consistent with the coronavirus will be tested.
Each hospital in Coos County as part of their disaster preparedness plan has also included a surge plan should the demand for increase capacity rise to take care of an influx of patients, said Lang.
According to Lang, CHV, which has 17 beds in service, typically operates with about 10 to 13 patients. The surge plan it currently has in place would allow its staff to house an additional 20 patents in the east wing of the hospital.
“We’re starting to have conversations with other area health care providers in terms of how do we open what are called ‘alternative care sites’ and put that in place,” said Lang. “So, if each of our healthcare entities were at normal maximum capacity and maximum surge capacity within the hospital campus then how do we open up additional healthcare sites so that we can treat additional influxes of patients.”
There are several different areas throughout the City of Coquille Lang said that have been designated as alternate care sites under the hospital’s routine disaster planning.
Personal protective equipment & supplies
As far as personal protective equipment (PPE), Lang said the hospital at the moment is fortunate to have a high supply of gear on hand. Monitoring the coronavirus spread throughout other counties and it’s the U.S. earliest cases, Lang said the hospital ordered additional supplies in anticipation of local cases.
“We also developed early on an appropriate use policy for personal protective equipment,” said Lang. “… we trained our staff to make sure they knew when they should and when they didn’t have to use personal protective equipment. We also out a PPE re-use policy in place you don’t have to throw your masks away every time that you use it.”
According to Lang, the hospital is also keeping and separating some of its PPE that it’s not able to reuse as health officials around the country have begun discussing ways to safely and effectively disinfect those items.
A potential a chemical wash is being discussed in the healthcare industry and if it’s an option that becomes available then the hospital will have extra masks on hand, said Lang.
“We also pulled together a plan from the CDC on how to make your own CDC-approved masks and we have all the materials here,” he said. “We’ve already had some people contact us in terms of wanting to help make masks.”
Volunteers with the Coquille Valley Hospital Auxiliary have also reached out to staff and have begun making masks. If supplies run low and the hospital no longer has the manufactured surgical masks in stock then its healthcare workers will use the CDC-approved masks made by community members, said Lang.
“We really appreciate the community’s help,” said Lang.
As of now, the hospital has a high number of face masks and other protective supplies so the need for additional items isn’t immediate.
A countywide effort
According to Lang, local area hospital CEO’s and other public health officials throughout Coos County have begun discussions on ways it could better collaborate with one another and move resources around.
“We’re all talking about how do we as an area start to really look at if and when this surge of patients come,” said Lang. “As an area healthcare system, how can we take care of our population with a more a unified front?”
A number of meetings have and will continue to take place as the coronavirus continues to unfold, said Lang.
“I’m extremely impressed with the work that our area has done in speaking with the health care leaders as we moved through the first couple of weeks and the changing environment that we’ve dealt,” said Lang. “We have some really smart people in our area some very capable operators. I would say as a (county) we’re very lucky that we have the people that we have.”
“(Coos Health and Wellness) has been absolutely wonderful in taking on some of the leadership role in this right from the beginning. They’ve done a great job in getting us the latest information and really pulling our groups together… our local EMS services have also been excellent to work with as they ready to care for patients throughout the area and make sure they’re able to get to healthcare facilities should they need to… the leadership form the physician community within the area has been absolutely amazing.”
For people with additional questions or looking for up-to-date information on the novel coronavirus and CHV’s response, visit its website at www.cvhospital.org.