OWOSSO — Memorial Healthcare has announced several new measures this week to increase hospital capacity and capabilities, and limit risk of exposure to staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
The hospital has opened a new acute respiratory care floor, expanded its alternative care site and “telehealth” appointments, is upgrading testing for the virus to make results available right away, has temporarily closed two urgent care centers and suspended non-essential appointments, procedures and services.
“I believe we are exhausting every measure we can to better prepare,” Memorial President/CEO Brian Long said Wednesday. “What we’re facing is unprecedented, and all the measures we’re taking will mitigate and reduce what we’re going to face. And we are taking additional measures as we speak.”
County health officials Wednesday afternoon announced the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the county, although tests for dozens of other people remain pending. The hospital expects to handle many more cases.
The latest actions taken by the hospital are as follows:
n Memorial has established a floor dedicated to treatment and care for patients admitted with acute respiratory needs. The newly designated floor provides negative pressure isolation for patients suspected and confirmed for the coronavirus (meaning the contaminated air is not recirculated to other rooms). Capacity has been increased for the Alternative Care Site, a designated triage location for individuals determined to be at risk of the coronavirus, located at the hospital’s main campus, South Auditorium entrance. The ACS is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
n With demand for coronavirus testing still high, Memorial is moving to create testing and results reporting available at the hospital as soon as possible. Not having to rely on outside labs to process the tests should help to improve the speed and efficiency of testing patients who are suspected of having the coronavirus.
“We’re working extremely hard to work with lab teams and the state to bring an in-house lab capacity to Memorial,” Long said. “The process of testing needs to accelerate.”
As of Wednesday, 272 patients were tested for coronavirus, with 100 negative. Just under 600 people have been screened by the hospital for the virus, with 272 patients who were found to not have other illnesses such as the flu qualifying for the test.
“We have been extremely happy with the test results that have been coming back,” Long said. “We know that the virus is out there and that the folks in this area are not removed from other areas, but Shiawassee County looks like a doughnut hole (while surrounding communities have coronavirus patients).”
n Telehealth capabilities are being expanded. Patients can now make appointments to see their primary care providers via video conference through the Care Convene Patient mobile app. Telehealth visits can provide safety for patients and providers, increase capacity, and reduce in-person visits during the coronavirus outbreak, hospital officials said in a news release. Patients are asked to contact their primary care provider to schedule a telehealth appointment if necessary.
n Memorial has temporarily closed its Perry and State Road urgent care locations in order to reallocate resources to its Alternative Care Site. Many satellite laboratory and radiology locations have also temporarily closed to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
n All non-essential medical appointments, procedures and testing have been suspended in order to make available critical staff and resources for the projected increase of patient volume. Medical staff is being redistributed to critical care roles as appropriate, the news release states.
As of Monday, all non-essential workers are working from home or taking time off in order to limit the unnecessary risk of exposure to employees and patients.
“The staff has been absolutely great through this whole thing. They are dedicated and committed to meet these new challenges,” Long said. “There are some brand new rules and some are working at home, without the normal support and facilities. They have adapted and overcome challenges. They are performing at the highest level.”
Also, all contracted projects — including the new Institute for Neurosciences and Multiple Sclerosis that is under construction on the Memorial campus — services or other non-essential activities have been suspended until further notice.
n In response to the national shortage of appropriate personal protection equipment for medical staff, Memorial is actively working to acquire hospital grade and standard supplies, and accepting donations from area businesses. To donate supplies, call (989) 729-4856.
Long asked people in the community to keep fighting the virus by following the prescribed rules.
“It is essential from our perspective that the community continues to follow the directives given by the state and local health agencies,” Long said. “Remaining isolated socially and hand-washing are the best opportunities to slow this virus.
“People need to take this seriously,” he continued. “We have to slow this down and flatten the curve, not by overreacting but by listening to and heeding the recommendations.”
Memorial officials recommended that those experiencing severe symptoms, such as extreme shortness of breath, call 911 or go to their local emergency department. People are asked to call the Memorial Healthcare emergency department at (989) 723-5211 before arriving, if possible.