Clark Fork Valley Hospital CEO urges continued diligence
By Scott Shindledecker, Daily Inter Lake, April 29, 2020 2:34 PM
Despite the fact Sanders County hasn’t had one positive COVID-19 case, health care professionals are urging continued diligence.
Dr. Gregory Hanson, President/CEO, of the hospital, spoke to media members Monday morning how his facility and its employees are dealing with the uncertain times.
“I think people forget the tremendous staff we have here,” Hanson said. “There’s a lot of stress, new policies and new ways of doing things.
“Our staff has to question ‘What will I pick up and take home to my family?’” Hanson said the housekeeping staff at the hospital has really stepped up to ensure cleanliness beyond normal procedures.
He said the hospital has done 49 screens for COVID-19, 46 were negative, and three are pending.
Testing was a major topic of discussion.
“There are certainly not enough tests for everyone and it’s been primarily done with those with symptons or healthcare workers,” Hanson said. “Home testing can be done, but I don’t know how available or reliable they are.”
Hanson said hospital visits have been reduced from about seven or eight per day to three or four. He believes social distancing has something to do with it.
“We’ve seen fewer common colds and I attribute a lot of it to social distancing,” Hanson said.
Another element is the telehealth option where patients communicate with their physicians through the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.
“Before coronavirus, the major impediment to telehealth was regulations, but those changed quickly,” Hanson said. “We’d welcome some regulatory changes to continue it.”
The hospital will soon return to performing elective surgeries.
“Our first elective surgeries are scheduled to begin this Friday (May 1) and includes things such as screening endoscopies, hernia repairs, arthroscopies and joint replacements,” Hanson said. “These are procedures for things that generally do not have immediate or short term risk to someone’s health. We have continued to perform surgeries that the surgeon and their primary care provider feel should not be delayed.”
Hanson said the hospital has been able to build up its stocks of personal protective equipment in anticipation of possible positive cases showing up.
The hospital hasn’t cut staff due to the decrease in patients, but some have had their hours decreased.
“We made a commitment to our staff that there would be no permanent layoffs for 90 days starting mid-March,” Hanson said. “We have not furloughed anyone but we have reduced hours consistent with low census plans that managers institute anytime we face volume decreases. We believe every employee will continue to have their pre-covid jobs in the long term as we see our workload increase.”
Hanson said he anticipates some long-term changes due to the pandemic.
“I think telehealth will have more adaptations and the expectations of what and how many supplies a hopital will change,” Hanson said. “I don’t know exactly what, but training will change in some ways.”
“We have to remember it’s a new thing that rapidly and severely affected people and there are no immunizations for it,” Hanson said.
In Montana, according to state health department figures through April 26, the state has 449 cases and 14 deaths among 13,033 tests.
Gallatin County is first with 146 while Yellowstone County has 79. Missoula County is third with 39, Flathead has 37 and Toole has 29.
Sanders County’s other neighbors, Lincoln has seven, and Lake has five.
According to Hanson, there have been only 15 new cases in Montana in the last week. In 76% of the diagnosed cases, patients have recovered.
Nationwide, the country is closing in on one million cases with three million worldwide.
New York state has had more than 17,000 deaths.