BRMC and OMC hospitals announce new regulations in response to COVID-19
Baxter Regional Medical Center (BRMC) in Mountain Home, Arkansas
At press time Tuesday, there had been no known COVID-19 exposures to any BRMC patients or employees, and no known cases have been identified in Baxter County, a BRMC spokesman said recently.
“I feel like there is a bell-shaped curve, and we’re just at the beginning,” BRMC CEO Ron Peterson said in a KTLO-Radio interview Monday. “We do not have any cases in Baxter County, but I’m sure we will at some point.”
Task force: A COVID-19 task force at BRMC has been meeting daily Monday through Friday to assess and adapt strategies as the COVID-19 situation evolves.
Personal protective equipment and respirators: “Right now, we’re doing OK. We’ve been prepared and trying to stock up as much personal protective equipment as we can in the last few weeks. So right now, our supply is good,” BRMC infection preventionist Stephanie Free said in the radio interview. “However, if we were to get several of these patients who are suspected to have this, we would go through them quickly. And we’re not alone in this. This is affecting every health care facility in the nation. We are getting daily numbers of how much personal protective equipment we have to stay on top of it.”
Screening: BRMC is screening individuals who traveled to China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea in the last 14 days and have respiratory symptoms including cough, runny nose, headache, sore throat or fever.
A nationwide shortage of COVID-19 tests has caused hospital personnel to be conservative in how many tests they administer.
“We’re having to be very diligent as to who we chose to screen at this time,” Free said in the interview. “The FDA has loosened some regulations, and hopefully by next week we’ll have some quicker testing capabilities and be able to expand that out.”
Free said that, as of Monday morning, BRMC had sent out five COVID-19 samples for testing. One was returned with a negative reading; the hospital is still awaiting results of the four others. The test involves a nasal and an oral swab. Results can be expected in two to three days if the test is sent to the Arkansas Department of Health. If the test is sent to BRMC’s private labs, results can be expected in four to five days.
Mobile testing facilities are being organized around the country in business parking lots and other areas, and BRMC spokespersons say they expect they will have some sort of mobile testing facilities set up eventually. It isn’t known yet where they will be located.
Call ahead: If patients believe they may have COVID-19, BRMC asks that they call ahead and notify hospital staff before arriving. If an individual is identified as being at risk, hospital staff will immediately fit the patient with a surgical mask, place them in a negative-pressure airborne room and notify the Arkansas Department of Health.
“The community has been really great about notifying us before they get to the facility. That is such a key factor right now,” Free said.
Restricted access and patient screening: The hospital has restricted access to the main entrance and the Medical Arts Building entrance, both open from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Cline Emergency Center entrance remains open 24/7. All patients and visitors entering at any of the three entrances will be screened for a normal temperature before they are allowed into the facility.
Limiting visitors: All non-essential visitors at BRMC are suspended from entering the facility. Each admitted hospital patient has an allowed limit of two visitors over the age of 12, and emergency room patients are allowed one visitor. All nonessential vendors will also be excluded from the facility until further notice.
Self-quarantine: BRMC suggests that individuals who believe they may have COVID-19 self-quarantine for 14 days. “The most common symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath. If someone has those symptoms, they should stay at home unless they need emergency medical attention… isolate themselves from others. There is no actual treatment for the coronavirus, so we recommend they stay at home and sit it out or call us. … We’re working vigilantly to keep our employees, patients and the public safe,” a hospital announcement said.
Updates: BRMC says its is coordinating news releases through KTLO, and will then update its website and social media as necessary.
Ozarks Medical Center (OMC), West Plains
Although no known cases of COVID-19 had been identified in Howell County at press time Tuesday, Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains has also implemented high-level restrictions to help reduce the possibility of spreading the virus.
Single entrance: All patients and visitors are required to enter the hospital through a single entrance on the north side of the building near the emergency department.
Limited visitors: Each patient is limited to one visitor per day. No one under the age of 18 is allowed in the hospital unless the juvenile is seeking treatment. Anyone who has had a fever or who has felt sick within the previous 24 hours and is not receiving treatment should avoid visiting all OMC facilities for the protection of others including the hospital and outpatient clinics.
Attend alone: Anyone with a scheduled appointment at an OMC facility should attend alone unless extra assistance is needed. OMC asks that all patients take their temperature before arriving at an OMC facility, and if they are experiencing a fever before arriving for a regularly scheduled appointment, call to reschedule.
Pharmacy: Beginning Monday, OMC restricted access to the OMC Pharmacy except through a new drive-thru service window. The main entrance and lobby of the pharmacy are closed until further notice. The pharmacy is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. For more information, call the pharmacy at 417-256-1793.
Pre-screening: Patients who believe they may have COVID-19 should call OMC to be pre-screened at 1-877-435-8411. Patients cannot be tested unless they have been pre-screened.