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Medical staff discuss preparedness


April 2, 2020

In an update on preparedness levels within Crook County Medical Services District, Dr. Heith Waddell said the team is working around the clock to update on current events and figure out the best steps to take to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak in the county.

“This is a very, very serious issue,” he said, expressing his gratitude that the community and its governing bodies appear to have taken it seriously and are doing their best to flatten the infection curve.

COVID-19 is so virulent, Waddell said, that predictions suggest between 40% and 70% of Crook County residents will eventually contract it. Up to 20% of those people will require hospitalization, he said.

The worry, according to Dr. Waddell, is that even a conservative estimate of 5% of the community requiring serious medical attention puts the number of people needing inpatient help at 125, which is many more than the hospital has capacity for at one time.

The more people stay home and stay put, said Waddell, the more the spread can be prolonged. That way, patients will have time to recover and vacate beds before they are needed for the next case.

Meanwhile, said Waddell, the nursing home depends on its staff for their protection. The district has shut down the long term care as best as it can while still stimulating and entertaining the residents.

The district has also reduced physical therapy and outside therapies and has had to “significantly limit visitors,” he said, with the exception of hospice patients.

The clinics are meanwhile trying to limit the number of people coming into the building, doing necessary appointments and also telehealth. An area has been set up for drive-up testing for people who meet the criteria; however, he said, while there are some tests available at the hospital, the criteria are strict because there are very few tests in the United States as a whole.

Said Naomi Jacobson, all wellness draws and the health fair have been postponed pending more information from governing agencies.

The management team at CCMSD meets every morning to discuss updates and necessary steps. Regarding supply lines, Waddell reported that state supplies have come in but there are bottlenecks.

“Certainly, we are not the only ones,” he said, noting that we are at the bottom of the supply list as a small community. However, the emergency room and acute care units are set up as best as possible to handle COVID-19 intakes.

Finances and Supplies

“Are we going to have enough capability to monitor patients?” asked Trustee Mark Erickson at Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Trustees, referring especially to oxygen because COVID-19 affects a patient’s breathing.

CEO Nathan Hough stated that the hospital already has some critical units and can do spot checks on oxygen as well. The facility’s total oxygen capability is under discussion, as well as how to make best use of it.

Waddell said that staff are planning out the hospital’s capabilities and figuring out how many patients they can take care of. Statistically, he said, there will be a need more monitoring capability; the situation is not fine, but staff are planning ahead and being proactive.

“We still have our general medical population that has general medical problems we still need to take care of,” Waddell added.

Trustee Sandy Neiman asks if more equipment can be obtained. Supplies are in “ridiculously high demand,” said Hough, but staff are pursuing avenues to see what can be obtained and holding daily discussions to determine what they need to be ready for.

Personal protection equipment is among the most expensive items right now, he said, due to price gouging and scarcity. Staff are setting priorities on what they need to source and obtain.

Erickson stated that the board wants to make sure the district can “prepare for the worst and hope for the best”. Along those lines, Neiman suggested placing the order for new beds for the long term care on hold to leave that money available.

For the sake of the district’s financial future, she said, “We need to hold off on things that are not mandatory…We don’t know what expenses we are going to have.”

Stating that staff will absolutely keep that in mind, Hough assured the board that staff have been following a protocol of “communication throughout the day, every day” since this began.


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