Phillips County Health Systems is currently dealing with a significant and concerning surge of COVID-19 cases. Consequently, we are also dealing with several employees being home with effects from the virus, including nurses. This rising trend in positive cases has us concerned. As of last week, the hospital had six COVID patients in isolation rooms along with increases in patients presenting to our Emergency Room for COVID or COVID-related symptoms or COVID testing. Other area hospitals have also been on diversion because their staff and facilities have been overwhelmed with COVID-related admissions or staffing shortages which has resulted in patients from other communities being sent to our facility for care. Last week alone, we tested over 100 individuals at PCHS, which does not include all those being tested by our local health department. Of those cases we tested, a staggering 40% were determined to be positive.
To deal with this significant uptick in the coronavirus, we have made adjustments to our facility allowing us to safely handle up to six COVID inpatients. The COVID ‘units’ have been retrofitted with negative airflow machines and have appropriately sealed off from the rest of our facility to create a secure and safe environment for our patients and staff.
Fortunately, back in the early stages of the pandemic, PCHS was aggressively developing plans with our staff and providers in the event of increasing positive COVID cases and stress being placed on our healthcare delivery system. We also relied heavily on various partners to ensure a measured and fact-based approach to our planning. The planning components included equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), facility modifications, and operational adjustments. We have continued to adjust our planning and to leverage our many business relationships to ensure our ability to handle an influx of patients and to assure our community of our readiness to do so. Since early last year, PCHS has been hosting community zoom meetings to enhance overall communications with other healthcare providers and our emergency preparedness team.
Space is not currently our issue. Keeping our staff healthy and in adequate numbers to care for all of our patients at this time remains our biggest concern. Disruptions and shortages in personal protective (PPE) supplies such as gowns, face shields, gloves, and masks remain high on the priority list of concerns as well. Through our relationship with the University of Kansas Medical Center, Vizient (our Group Purchasing Organization), and Medline (our prime distributor) we have been able to obtain supplies but because of the current situation, our ‘burn rate’ of PPE is accelerating to a concerning rate. We are fortunate to have a solid relationship with these organizations but national and regional shortages are beginning to impact the entire supply chain and will invariably begin to impact our ability to receive these important items should this increase continue for a prolonged time beyond a couple of weeks.
On behalf of our providers, our staff, and for the safety of our community, we are asking for your assistance in taking seriously the Health Department and CDC recommendations wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing, and the avoidance of any large gatherings that are not essential at this time to reduce the possibility of our healthcare delivery system being overwhelmed. Late last week PCHS, out of necessity, exceeded our own isolated COVID unit limits last week. As of today (Monday, November 16th), our COVID census has thankfully been reduced back to the 20% threshold. Unfortunately, earlier this morning our community and PCHS experienced our first COVID-related patient death since the pandemic began back in March. Just a week ago, we had only one COVID patient in our facility and it had been several weeks since the last COVID admission.
As other larger area hospitals are unable to take any transfers from Phillipsburg and other smaller facilities, we would graciously ask for your patience and support for the following situations:
Provide support for families of those who have loved ones in the hospital and are not able to visit them due to visitor restrictions that are in place for the safety of our patients and staff.
Friends, family, and community members with fragile health conditions.
Medical personnel working multiple shifts and giving up precious family time to meet the needs of our patients.
Support staff members, including housekeeping, dietary, rehab, lab, radiology, and other personnel who are entering the COVID units to care for patients on a daily basis.
Countless staff members who have moved from one department to another to assist with COVID care and duties.
Parents and caregivers who are attempting to juggle caregiving duties to pick up extra shifts and worry about bringing home the virus to their loved ones.
Our local business owners who are threatened with another shut down or decrease in shopping/spending. Please continue to support and purchase goods/services from these businesses while practicing safe visiting practices.
As with any situation such as this pandemic, there are many areas of encouragement and situations that inspire. Phillips County Health Systems truly has an amazing and dedicated staff and medical providers that continue to strive to meet all of the healthcare needs of our community by providing exceptional patient-centered care. We undoubtedly will get through this pandemic successfully as a country and as a community. Please know that until we do, or a vaccine is available, we appreciate in advance your efforts to reduce the COVID curve and shorten its duration for the benefit of everyone.
We care about our community and request also that you do not avoid having your other healthcare needs being met. We stand ready to assist and have recently heard about individuals not seeing their healthcare provider or refraining from having tests conducted that they need to have done. Avoiding necessary healthcare services can lead to very negative and undesirable outcomes. Please be assured, Phillips County Hospital and Phillips County Medical Clinic are both a very safe place to access health care because of great people and good planning.
It remains an honor and a privilege to care for our community during this unprecedented time. We remain here to treat your healthcare needs and your assistance will ensure that we will be able to continue to do so during the most challenging of times due to this pandemic. Thank you in advance for your help.
Very truly yours,
PHILLIPS COUNTY HEALTH SYSTEMS
Rex D. Walk, FACHE
Chief Executive Officer