BLACKFOOT, ID – March 5, 2020 – At Bingham Healthcare (BH), they take the health of their community very seriously. In fact, their administrative team works closely with their medical providers on a daily basis to stay up-to-date on all of the latest news in the health industry. Understanding and preparing for the COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has been no exception.
“At this time, there are no cases in Idaho,” says Kenneth Newhouse, M.D., chief medical officer at BH. “There are, however, confirmed cases in Washington State and six people are being screened in the Boise area. The most important thing you can do at this time to prevent you and your family from getting COVID-19 is to avoid people who are coughing, sneezing, or obviously sick. Thorough hand washing is also crucial, especially after visiting public places. Because we currently believe that the virus spreads through contact with droplets from an infected person, we use standard droplet precautions (mask, eye protection, and gown), patient isolation, and thorough hand washing in the healthcare setting”
At Bingham Memorial Hospital (BMH) and all Bingham Healthcare facilities, they regularly practice how to deal with an outbreak and emergency situations, so they are prepared to deal with coronavirus patients in the event that they need to. They are working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to closely monitor the outbreak. In addition, they are actively working to ensure that the most up-do-date guidelines are quickly and accurately disseminated to local partners.
Further, they are also evaluating their visitation policy in their hospital and clinics to determine if any changes need to be made. They are considering having some staff stationed outside of the hospital to ensure patients and visitors are being directed to the appropriate entrances and offices. One change that they have made is at Bingham Memorial’s Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Blackfoot. Because of the older and more vulnerable patient population at this facility, visitors are only allowed in through the main entrance and are being screened upon entering.
“We are ensuring that our medical staff is informed fully about the coronavirus and what to look for,” Dr. Newhouse says. “We have also worked to make sure that hospital resources—food, linen, cleaning services, information technology, housekeeping, and engineering—are in order, and we have secured as many gowns, masks, and other supplies as possible.”
One of the advantages that BH employees have right now is that it’s the middle of flu season, so they are already accustomed to using best practice guidelines when treating patients presenting with symptoms of respiratory infections. With general day-to-day travelers in their health system, they’ve always had a robust symptom- and travel-screening strategy.
At BH, any patients presenting with a respiratory infection will be questioned about recent travel. They have also added a specific screening question to identify patients who have recently traveled to China or other significantly affected areas where COVID-19 is present. If they suspect anything, they will isolate them.
Having these protocols in place really helps alert their teams to quickly isolate and mask the patient, which they do for influenza-like symptoms. The risk to already-vulnerable hospitalized patients when they come in contact with a person with respiratory illness is always a serious concern throughout flu season.
“The CDC has warned that there will likely be more cases reported in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” Dr. Newhouse says. “As a result, they have implemented the following screening protocols at BMH and all Bingham Healthcare clinics.”
- All patients arriving to a Bingham Healthcare organization who present with respiratory symptoms will be placed in a mask immediately.
- Patients arriving via ambulance with possible COVID-19 will remain on the ambulance until an appropriate room is available.
- Patients who call ahead to the ER or a clinic will be triaged over the phone and asked to wait in their car until an appropriate room placement is ready for them (unless they are having emergent issues).
- All patients will be assessed for recent travel out of the country or to high risk areas and for any exposure to any known COVID-19 positive persons.
Because of the changing nature of COVID-19 on a daily basis, everyone at BH recognizes that it’s important to be as flexible as possible and will continue assessing the situation and implementing changes as necessary.
For additional information about COVID-19 or travel restrictions, they highly recommend you visit the CDC website at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/index.html
Article about Preventing and Planning for COVID-19