This has been a busy week of resource planning and other preparedness efforts at St. John’s Health.
Many of our nation’s hospitals are reaching capacity taking care of COVID-19 patients. This morning, I was informed that Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls (EIRMC) and several hospitals in the Wasatch Range have made a commitment to be available for necessary transfers of St. John’s Health patients. While we are committed to being prepared to depend on local resources and capabilities to take care of our patients, this development is very welcome news.
The commitment of all our staff, especially our front-line caregivers, is incredibly inspiring. They are our heroes. Everyone else on the St. John’s team is making a HUGE difference too, by helping to keep our patients and community safe and reduce the spread of disease. With encouragement and leadership from elected officials, Teton County appears to be flattening the curve by practicing physical distancing and sheltering at home. This is a community-wide effort that makes me proud to live here and confident that we will get through this together.
Here’s a rundown of what’s new this week :
- The new COVID hotline has already fielded more than 2000 calls, helping us determine if someone needs medical care or testing, and we’ve seen approximately 700 patients via telehealth. We have put a comprehensive program into place to make sure that testing is being done safely for healthcare providers and all community members. This is helping to reduce the spread of disease in our community and save lives.
- The medical tent went up this week as an additional site for physicians to send individuals who need to be tested. This supplements our Home Health program as a way to help people get tested. The medical tent is fully equipped to be converted later to take care of a surge in patients with COVID if necessary. However, we believe we have ample space within the existing 49-bed hospital to handle the number of patients who may need hospitalization as part of their recovery. We have identified dedicated patient care areas where we will care for ill COVID patients. There will be separate areas designated for taking care of other patients, including our birth center.
- We installed new lab equipment with an expanded respiratory test panel. This new equipment has been approved by the FDA for COVID testing. We are working with test kit suppliers and will soon expand local testing capabilities and increase turnaround time for results by doing testing in-house.
- With help from the St. John’s Health Foundation and donors, we purchased 10 new ventilators. A small percentage of patients with severe COVID disease are ventilated due to breathing difficulties. With the new equipment, St. John’s has ventilator equipment to care for 54 ventilated patients at one time. Donors to the Foundation also helped us acquire a new UV smart technology disinfectant system for clinical areas and patient rooms. This system aids our efficiency in thoroughly cleaning patient rooms before and after use.
- We identified 84 experienced critical care nurses who are currently working other jobs within our hospital and clinics. We are adjusting our staffing assignments so that these employees will be trained and available to support the needs of a large number of COVID patients if that becomes necessary. This includes many employees who are trained to provide care to patients on ventilators.
- Dr. Will Smith, from our emergency department, is being activated with the U.S. Army Reserve to support the national COVID-19 effort as Branch Chief of EMS and Disaster Medicine for the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General. Colonel Smith has been instrumental in keeping our staff and the emergency responders working together for our patients and the community. He has also been an excellent resource for sharing national emergency preparedness strategies to help us stay ahead of the curve.
- One of our emergency department nurses, Keegan Pfeil, is spearheading an effort to recruit community members to create standard face masks for St. John’s. By distributing these masks to hospital visitors, patients without COVID, ancillary departments, and others in the community we will hopefully be able to preserve the hospital-grade masks on hand for staff and those on the front line. You can learn about the mask project and learn about other ways to help by visiting the Foundation website at www.stjohnsfoundation.health.
With community mitigation efforts and aggressive resource planning at St. John’s, I believe we will be well prepared to take care of patients needing medical care or hospitalization.
Paul Beaupre, MD, Chief Executive Officer