BEAVERCREEK — The coronavirus has changed how almost every person approaches his or her daily routine.
Even health care workers have had to make major adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It really starts with our preparation before we even go into work,” said Nancy Pook, an emergency department doctor with Kettering Health Network. “We are bringing almost nothing into the emergency department. When you drive onto campus, there is really only one entrance that you can go through. Because everyone gets screened.”
Outside Soin Medical Center in Beavercreek, where Pook has had several shifts in the last week, there are signs indicating there are no visiting hours. And there are no employee entrances. Everyone goes in one door.
“Everyone has their temperature taken before they can even go into work,” Pook said.
Once inside the KHN emergency departments, patients may notice some differences as well. Pook said split triages are being used to assess patients.
“When people arrive they are determined fairly quickly to be either the COVID-19 suspect sick or maybe not sick,” Pook said.
She cited an example of a recent patient who came in after experiencing a stroke. That person was quickly determined not to be a coronavirus risk and was taken to a part of the department designated for non-coronavirus cases.
“We want to provide them with the best care,” Pook said. “We’re not going to delay their interventions by asking too many questions. By split triage you can understand the sick people or potentially sick go in one part of the department and the non-sick go in another.”
Extra precautions are being taken when a patient is suspected of having COVID-19. While doctors wear masks to see every patient, in a suspect patient room doctors wear gloves, goggles, a mask and a gown. For more serious cases that have a potential for the virus becoming airborne such as during intubation, the doctor will wear a powered air-purifying respirator, which is a hood or full-face mask connected to a machine that filters hazards out of the air and then delivers clean air to the user.
In addition to all the precautions, simply making a COVID-19 diagnosis is not that easy. Pook said with the flu a diagnosis could be obtained typically within in hour. She said with limited coronavirus testing materials it could take up to two days. And not everyone is being tested. Only patients who are in the top three tiers receive the test. Tier one patients are admitted to the hospital and are tested there. Tier two and three patients are high risk and people working in high-risk environments, such as health care. They could be tested at the hospital or referred to the remote testing site at the University of Dayton Arena.
“Patients who are being admitted have to be short of breath and need oxygen,” Pook said.
If a patient is not admitted and sent home, they are put on quarantine, she added.
Pook also stressed that if a suspect case turns out to be something else, like a bladder infection, or something more serious, care is not jeopardized.
“They are attended to with the highest level of care that we have always provided,” she said.
Despite the constant increase in positive tests state-wide and in the Dayton area, Pook said the volume in the emergency department has decreased because of social distancing and patients contacting their primary care physician first. Also, because people in general are not outside of their residences as much, there are fewer traumas from car accidents, etc.
That has led to some scaling back of staff and fewer shifts for some employees. But once the coronavirus peaks in Ohio, which is expected sometime in the next few weeks, KHN will be ready, Pook said.
“When volumes increase, we will be responsive to that,” she said.
KHN has learned from how officials in Washington handled the outbreak to help prepare.
“We were able to lean on the experience of the University of Washington folks and folks on the west coast to better understand how to predict and go forward,” Pook said. “We will continue to follow what’s happening out there and other parts of the country to see how we need to ramp up to provide the best level of support for our community.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.