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FRHS RESPONDS TO COVID-19

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New screening procedures in place; team preparing what may come next 

 

Reaction to the coronavirus across the United States may have first accelerated considerably last week, but officials at Freeman Regional Health Services (FRHS) have been thinking about their response to the virus for almost three months.

“We’ve been talking about COVID-19 since January,” said Courtney Unruh, Chief Nursing Officer at FRHS. “That’s when we started preparing our leaders and our staff with information about the virus.”

Unruh says FRHS activated its emergency preparedness team on Tuesday, March 10, when South Dakota saw its first confirmed cases, and officials have been working both internally and out in the community since. That includes twice-weekly meetings with a team of health care officials, city officials and representatives from the schools.

“The goal in all of this is flattening the curve (slowing the rate of infection),” she said. “If we all do our part and stay home from events, reduce social interactions and be mindful of that social distancing of six feet, we can all help flatten that curve so we don’t have to be worried about having an adequate number of beds or ventilators in our U.S. hospital system.”

Dr. Ken Kirton said it’s vital that people understand how the virus is spread so they are aware of why these precautionary measures have been put in place.

“I do think people accepting those things (precautionary measures) requires some overemphasis of what (coronavirus) is and how it’s spread in simple terms,” Kirton said. “This is a respiratory infection; there are two ways it’s spread. One is through airborne exposure. The more common way is hand to nose, hand to surface, surface to nose. Understanding that simple message is really important; that’s why government and health authorities are implementing these policies which are affecting our daily lives.”

Freeman Regional Health Service’s clinics, which include satellite branches in Bridgewater, Marion and Menno, continue to take appointments and the team at the local health care system has worked hard to develop a screening process for patients at its clinics, as well as at its ER in Freeman. Tests for COVID-19 may be collected locally, but are sent off-site for results.  

The screening process is outlined in the accompanying box. 

Meanwhile, the team at FRHS continues to develop its plan of action as more information comes in.

“We’re looking at our current situation today, as well as preparing for the worst-case scenario,” Unruh said.

And Kirton says people should listen and learn about the virus.

“Knowledge is power; people need to navigate the world safely,” he said, commending the way the community has responded the past week. “It’s amazing the way people have handled this intelligently and thoughtfully in the way they relate to other community members.”

 

Screening process for call/acute clinic/ER Visit

Freeman Regional Health Services is screening all individuals who are seeking assistance with a medical problem, for COVID-19 symptoms and potential exposure. 

The screening includes:

• New onset of cough, fever, or shortness of breath within the past 2 weeks.

• Travel to areas identified as having COVID-19. 

• Contact with someone who is suspected of having COVID-19. 

We will be providing hand sanitizer to all individuals upon entry. We will ask individuals who are at risk to wear a mask. 

If a FRHS provider and nurse determine medium to high risk for exposure to COVID-19, we will partner with Avera to ensure that individuals get appropriate testing. Those individuals requiring symptom management will be cared for accordingly.

 

Screening for scheduled appointments/therapies

We are asking all individuals who have a scheduled appointment or therapy to self-screen at home for COVID-19 symptoms and potential exposure. If you feel you are at risk, please cancel your appointment and contact your health care provider. 

We are screening all individuals who are entering the facility for scheduled appointments and therapies for COVID-19 symptoms and potential exposure. 

The screening includes:

• New onset of cough, fever, or shortness of breath within the past 2 weeks.

• Travel to areas identified as having COVID-19.   

• Contact with someone who is suspected of having COVID-19. 

We will be providing hand sanitizer to all individuals upon entry and ask individuals who are at risk to wear a mask. If your screening identifies a concern we will assist with determining the next step. 

 

Visitation restrictions

We activated our emergency preparedness team on March 10. We wanted to take a proactive approach in implementing appropriate infectious disease control measures including restricting entry into our facility. Only authorized visitors are permitted at this time. 

Screening employees

We have implemented a screening process for employees. We are doing our best to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients, residents, employee and communities.