Amid surge of COVID-19 cases, SMH offers update, new treatment
As the Delta variant causes positive COVID-19 cases to increase throughout the area, Stephens Memorial Hospital gave an update during their meeting Tuesday.
SMH CEO Brian Roland provided details regarding case counts, which as of Friday, Sept. 3 was at 85 active cases for Stephens County, according to the hospital’s weekly Facebook update. According to the same post, the Walker-Sayle Unit currently has 114 active cases, a sharp increase from eight active cases the previous Friday.
Roland discussed COVID-related hospitalizations, with half of the current patients admitted to the hospital, as of Tuesday, being positive for COVID-19. SMH has been able to receive assistance covering their current staffing shortages, with two agency nurses and two state nurses currently working at the hospital.
Roland also spoke about receiving new equipment to aid the hospital in providing care for COVID-19 patients.
“We also received yesterday four new (ventilators). They’re stepdown ventilators, not like the normal full ventilator. It’s a smaller machine,” he said. “... we’ve got two of those already in place working to help take care of our patients.”
The CEO announced that SMH now has the ability to administer monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of COVID-19. The treatment, by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., was given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2020. According to the FDA, the antibody treatment is used to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 cases in patients over 12-years-old, including those 65-years-old or older or who have certain chronic medical conditions, who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19.
“We also now are doing the Regeneron (treatment). We received our first doses of the infusion yesterday. We actually gave out two infusions already yesterday, and we’re actually already ordering more, that way we’ll have plenty available,” he said. “That’s, again, based on the timing, if you test positive, so we actually have that available here in Stephens County for our patients.”
When asked by another board member about the shelf life of the Regeneron doses, Roland said that he expects to move through their stock quickly and does not foresee any doses going to waste by expiring. He also said SMH has already placed eight more orders for the infusion treatments, which take about three days to arrive at the hospital.
“The bigger challenge right now is having enough equipment to do all of those infusions, with everything else that we’ve got going on,” Roland said. “... you have to have an IV pump and you have to have the timing to do it, but with all the other patients using IV pumps already because they’re on different meds and things along those lines, we only have so many. So we actually talked (...) about getting five additional IV pumps sent out to us for us to use. We’re working on that now, to get those pumps, to make sure we have that.”
New employee protocols, quarantine guidance
The hospital has also adopted protocols for employee testing and quarantine guidance. If an employee has been confirmed positive of COVID-19 by PCR testing, or is running a fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or is experiencing respiratory symptoms without official diagnosis to explain symptoms, the employee must report by phone to the department director. The employee must quarantine until they are recovered.
Employees who are living with or were in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 positive individual, where neither person was wearing a mask, must report to their department director when reporting to work and monitor their symptoms. Whether or not the employee is vaccinated, they will be tested and are only required to quarantine if they are unvaccinated.
For employees who are in close contact with someone who is being tested due to symptoms or exposure, where neither person was wearing a mask, testing will only be performed if the individual they were exposed to ends up testing positive. The employee will not have to quarantine.
The protocols define close contact as “spending 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of someone where either person is not wearing a mask;” recovered (symptomatic) as both “at least 10 days since onset of fever and/or respiratory symptoms” and “resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement or resolution of respiratory symptoms for at least 24 hours;” and recovered (asymptomatic) as “10 days have passed since test used to diagnose COVID-19 was performed.”
It also lists the common symptoms of COVID-19 as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of taste and loss of smell.
New clinic procedures, wellness center at risk of temporary shutdown
Breckenridge Medical Clinic has amended its procedures to reduce exposure to possible COVID-19 positive individuals. According to Roland, patients who are not sick are able to come into the clinic to see their provider. But those who are exhibiting signs and symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested in their vehicles, prior to entering the clinic. Once results are confirmed, a determination will be made whether or not a provider will see the patient face-to-face or via telephone or telehealth.
“We’re just getting those (procedures) in place now, to ensure that we don’t have 20 people with COVID coming into the clinic everyday, and infecting everybody else that’s sitting in the waiting room waiting to be seen,” Roland said.
The hospital is currently monitoring the situation in regards to the Stephens Memorial Hospital Physical Therapy and Wellness Center, and, according to Roland, if case numbers continue to rise, the wellness center may have to be temporarily shut down for hospital-use only.
“I want that to be the last case scenario, but because of the number of, even our outpatients, potentially COVID positive (individuals) and the challenge with masks, we’re keeping an eye on that,” Roland said.
With cases on the rise within the community, SMH is putting plans and procedures into place that will help curb the spread of COVID-19.
“There’s 110 things going on with COVID right now, it literally is changing every day,” he said. “We’re waiting now, they’re working on the third (Pfizer-BioNTech) shot for everybody. Hopefully, by the week of Sept. 20, that is all going to be approved and in place, so we’ll have all of our vaccines available. We’re doing all of our steps possible to keep everybody safe, to keep the facilities secure from COVID and moving forward.”