Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Hospital Cancels Elective Surgeries, Closes Hailey Clinic to Fight Coronavirus Spread
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Saturday, March 21, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

St. Luke’s Wood River is suspending normal operations in order to provide a safe environment for patients and caregivers as the hospital works to combat the spread of coronavirus in Blaine County.

The number of Blaine County residents testing positive for coronavirus tripled from five to 16 on Thursday. And three more Blaine County cases were confirmed on Friday. One more person tested positive here but is not counted because he or she returned home to another state.

Friday afternoon, the hospital announced it is:

  • Postponing elective and non-emergent procedures, such as knee and hip replacements.
  • Suspending services at its Hailey clinic. Patients who have non-emergent appointments scheduled will be given the opportunity to convert them to a telehealth option or to postpone them.
  • St. Luke’s Wood River’s Emergency Department will remain operational with admissions transferring to an appropriate facility.
  • Surgeons and obstetrics physicians will take care of emergency situations.
  • The Walk-In Clinic adjacent to the hospital will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
  • And the COVID-19 drive-through screening and sample collection tent will remain operational from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Patients will be able to stay in their cars for screening and, if necessary, specimen collection.
  • A new no visitor policy also has been established throughout St. Luke's hospitals.

    The changes are designed to focus resources, including nurses and environmental services, where they are most needed—right now, that being the emergency department, screening tent and walk-in clinic, said Carmen Jacobsen, the hospital’s chief operating officer/CNO.

    It will also free up doctors and nurses to cover for staff who have tested positive for the virus or who have been forced to self-quarantine due to contact with those who have tested positive, said Joy Prudek, the hospital’s public relations manager.

    “Considering the small size and unique population of our community, this spread has disproportionately impacted our caregivers in Wood River,” she added.

    Prudek said hospital staff are working to transfer or discharge currently admitted patients. And they will work with local first responders and other health care providers in the area to divert new inpatient admissions.

    “Our number one priority is, and will always be the health and safety of our communities—patients and caregivers,” said Jacobsen. “The challenges we are experiencing in Wood River are perhaps unique but what is also unique is our resiliency.”

    “I think we can all agree that there’s very little that’s normal in our community right now,” added Prudek. “What is normal—or even more apparent—is the dedication, passion and commitment our team has exhibited in caring for the public and our staff.”

    Similar measures are being taken at other hospitals in St. Luke’s Health Systems. Two Blaine County residents, for instance, learned Friday that their appointments at the urology clinic at St. Luke’s Magic Valley had been cancelled and the clinic closed. Hospitals in Boise and across the country are postponing elective surgeries to free up face masks, ventilators and other resources.

    The move to redistribute resources comes as Idaho’s cases of coronavirus climbed to 36.

    In addition to the three new Blaine County cases, the Bingham County public health department in Pocatello announced its first confirmed case—a 37-year-old male with mild symptoms. So did Canyon County—a male in his 60s with mild symptoms who had traveled to a location with community spread.

    The state also announced two additional cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Northern Idaho. One, a female in her 60s, experienced mild symptoms and is self-isolating at home. Another—a male under 30--experienced mild symptoms and has been self-isolating since returning from home from a trip.

    A Boise State University employee has tested positive as four more Ada County cases are confirmed. So has a Micron employee.

    Nationwide there have been more than 10,500 cases with 150 deaths.

    It’s believed the virus could hit rural counties with large populations of elderly hard. In Idaho more than 100,000 Idahoans live in counties without hospital beds, including those in Custer, Lincoln, Boise and Camas counties.

     Blaine County has 25 beds for 21,994 residents—3,804, or 17.3 percent, of which are over the age of 65. That’s 0.007 beds per resident over 65.

    And The Idaho Statesman has reported that testing for the coronavirus is not only hard to come by but that some patients must wait up to 10 days for their results The state lab can run only 60 tests a day so  the state is sending many of its samples to laboratories in Seattle and Denver.

    St. Luke’s is asking Blaine County residents to:

  • Stay home if you’re sick. If you develop symptoms, call St. Luke’s triage hotline at 209-381-9500.
  • Practice social distancing, keeping at least six feet apart from others, even if you’re not showing symptoms.
  • Wash hands often, keep surfaces around you clean and disinfected, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and avoid touching your face.
  • Seek testing only if you are experiencing symptoms, at high risk or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus.

 

 

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