SCMH Responds to Coronavirus

Updated May 15, 2020 – What does Phase 1.5 mean for SCMH?

Actually, there isn’t a lot of new factors for us. We will continue to see patients offer Quick Care and schedule routine appointments as normal. Our team continues to be cautious, so we’re encouraging any patient with illness to call before they come to the clinic or ER. We are still screening 100% of people who enter the facility to keep our staff and other patients and visitors safe. The visitation policy will continue to be limited to one person per patient per day to reduce risk to patients.

We are in continued conversation with all our specialists about visiting SCMH. Each facility is different based on their own incidence and number of hospitalizations. Most of our specialty providers are offering telemedicine alternatives to in-person appointments. We are encouraging all our regular patients and especially those with chronic conditions to make and keep appointments. It is imperative to your health to check in with your provider–especially if you have a chronic or ongoing condition that requires attention.

Our clinic providers are also open for telemedicine appointments, curbside visits or even home visits in necessary cases. Again, these appointments can mean a major change in your healthcare strategy so we encourage you to find a way to safely see your provider.

School physicals have begun and again, while we don’t yet know the future of school or sports activities, we encourage parents to make these appointments soon. SCFP is offering free school physicals to all students of Smith Center, Thunder Ridge and child whose primary care provider is at the clinic. These are only available through the end of July and appointment slots fill up quickly.

Please continue to practice good hand hygiene, social distance and follow the guidelines from Gov. Kelly and the local health department. Note the changes to travel made by the health department on Friday afternoon. Non-essential travel is discouraged, but necessary travel to counties in Kansas and Nebraska now permissible.

As always, we’re so proud of our patients and the communities we serve for their efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus. Please keep up the efforts so we stay safe as we return to more of our “normal” summer activities.

 

Updated 5/1/2020 at 6:22 p.m. – The administration and medical staff Smith County Memorial Hospital take seriously the health of the communities we serve and have been actively involved in the plans to reopen the county along with the health department and local emergency management team.

In addition to supporting local efforts, SCMH has taken a look at our own services and security features and has created a plan to phase in “normal” facility practices.

  • SCMH has implemented safety measures to protect our staff, patients, and visitors throughout the pandemic. Screening, visitor restrictions and other safety measures will remain in place until they are phased down in an orderly manner.
    • 100% of patients, visitors and staff will be screened for symptoms including temperature and travel or other exposure at facility entrances. People with any illness will not be allowed into the facility to visit patients.
    • Visitation is limited to one person per patient per day. A log is kept of approved visitors and will be checked when entering the facility. Tablets are available for patients to video chat with loved ones outside of the facility.
  • SCMH has the capability to collect specimens for COVID-19 testing. The actual analysis of specimens occurs in a reference laboratory in Kansas City. Normally we receive results of the test within 48 hours of specimen collection. We will continue testing patients as needed.
  • SCMH has always emphasized good hand hygiene by our staff. During this pandemic, we have strongly emphasized increased vigilance regarding hand hygiene by staff, visitors and patients. This will continue going forward.
  • Waiting rooms and other communal areas in the facility have had chairs removed to accommodate social distancing requirements.
  • Exam rooms and patient rooms will continue to be cleaned to the specification of KDHE and federal standards.

Appointments and Procedures:

  • Smith County Family Practice and Smith County Memorial Hospital are both open for appointments and most procedures. Because our staff is screening everyone who enters the facility, we think this is a very safe place to visit. We don’t want residents of the county waiting too long for medical support, so please don’t put off your appointments!
  • Specialty clinics will continue to be available either for in person visits or by telemedicine depending on the provider’s own restrictions. If your provider isn’t visiting SCMH right now, contact their office to request an appointment via telemedicine.
  • Surgeries, chemotherapy and other procedures will be done on a case-by-case basis as determined by the provider.
  • Patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms are encouraged to call prior to coming to the facility to protect our staff from possible exposure.

As restrictions are lifted, the administration and medical team will work together to evaluate and update our practices. Thank you for continuing to choose SCMH as your primary care facility.

 

Updated 4/16/2020 at 11:44 a.m. – Smith County has reported a positive case of COVID-19. Information about the case is being handled by the health department. Their team is contacting individuals who may also need to be tested and will work with them directly to provide further instruction.

At this time, it is especially important to be mindful of several things.

The individual who tested positive, as well as any future cases, has a right to privacy. As with any health concern, this is personal and identifying information will be kept private. It is easy to make assumptions, guesses and listen to rumors during these moments. We encourage everyone to ignore these tendencies and instead focus on supporting our communities by taking personal measures to stop the spread of the virus.

Staying at home is more vital than ever. This is perhaps the single most important thing we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Kelly recently extended the state executive order to May 3. Given the recent arrival of COVID-19 to Smith County, this extension is even more appropriate for our communities.

When we say stay at home, we really mean at home. This is inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Please limit shopping and other essential trips to local stores and to only absolutely necessary events. If possible, participate in the curbside or drive up options at many of our local businesses. Even during the necessary trips, please practice social distancing staying at least six feet away from others. Don’t shake hands, hug or touch. Cover coughs and sneezes. Practice good hand hygiene washing your hands or using hand sanitizer before and after shopping.

Unfortunately, this also means limiting extended contact with those you aren’t living with or taking care of. Surrounding ourselves with family and friends seems second nature during uncertain times, however, in this case, it can put our loved ones at risk. Make time for each other through virtual communication using one of the many technologies available to us.

We can expect a certain amount of anxiety and stress caused by uncertainty, isolation and being apart from loved ones during this time. If you are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or stress or need someone to talk to, please reach out to a trusted support person such as a pastor, mental health provider or contact your primary care provider for a referral. We don’t want current events to lead to long-term suffering, so please ask for guidance to get relief.

 

Updated 4/2/2020 at 6:20 p.m. – Due to the recent stay-at-home order from the governor as well as the added travel restrictions from our county health department, Smith County Memorial Hospital has issued a screening requirement for all patients, visitors, vendors and employees entering the hospital or clinic. Patients and visitors to the hospital should enter through the ER entrance as they do during evenings and weekends. Entrants will be asked screening questions and either allowed to pass through to the facility or be asked to see a provider for further follow-up.

Clinic patients with appointments will be screened over the phone the day before their scheduled visit. Quick care and walk-in patients will be screened at the entrance to the clinic.

Anyone who believes they have symptoms of COVID-19 should call the clinic or hospital prior to coming to the facility. A protocol is in place for patients who need to be tested and they will be given instructions about testing if needed.

In addition to screening requirements, we have also made changes to our visitor policy during the coronavirus pandemic. Patients in the hospital will only be allowed one visitor per day. Visitors must be local Smith County residents. This means that visitors will need to be placed on an approved visitor list prior to coming to the facility. Visitors will be screened just like patients and should enter the building through the ER entrance. Visitors who are not on the approved list, are encouraged to connect to their loved ones through FaceTime and may arrange a video call through the hospital nursing staff.

The decision to require screening was made out of an abundance of caution. There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Smith County. Our medical team and administration believe it is important to support the local health department and state agency by doing our part to enforce the stay-at-home and quarantine orders. These changes will help keep our communities and staff safe. Again, all updates to cases of COVID-19 in Kansas are made public through the KDHE website and the county health department.

 

Updated 3/29/2020 at 7:38 p.m. – Following Gov. Laura Kelly’s “Stay At Home” order, we wanted to answer a few common questions.

Q: What is the impact of Governor Kelly’s “Stay at Home” order on appointments at the clinic?
A: Medical appointments are exempt from the Executive Order. You may still come to the clinic for your scheduled appointment.
Q: What about Quick Care?
A: At the present time, Quick Care is being conducted as usual. If you are acutely ill with a fever or cough, we ask that you call the clinic before coming in.
Q: What if I’m concerned about coming to the clinic? Aren’t there a lot of sick people being seen there?
A: There have been respiratory illnesses, including Influenza, circulating in the community for several months. At the present time, nobody in Smith County has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. If you are concerned and don’t want to keep a routine clinic appointment, we will be happy to reschedule you for a later date.
Q: What about the telemedicine services that I’m hearing about? Can the clinic provide those?
A: If you want to be seen by a provider using telemedicine, call the clinic and request this service. We will get back with you by phone to schedule and send instructions.
Q: I don’t use a lot of electronic communications. Can I still use telemedicine?
A: The only tools you will need to receive services by telemedicine are a computer with a camera and microphone (usually a laptop), or a tablet, or a smartphone. Older flip-phone devices will not work for this service. When your appointment is scheduled, we will contact you with a “link” to connect to the appointment.
Q: What software or apps do I need to take advantage of telemedicine?
A: You do not need any software or apps for this service. As long as you have the equipment (computer, tablet, or smartphone) required for this service, you will only need to click on the link we will supply in order to connect to the appointment.
Q: Can any other people see me during this telemedicine appointment?
A: The link we will provide to you is specific to your appointment. No one else will be able to see you during the appointment.
Q: What if my family member who normally accompanies me to my appointments isn’t with me?
A: If you wish to have a family member included in your appointment by telemedicine, let us know that. We can provide the link to your appointment with another person that you want to be included.
Q: I’m supposed to have lab tests done before my clinic appointment. How do I get those done?
Our laboratory is operating as normal. If you are supposed to have routine lab tests run before your appointment, you should come to the hospital ahead of your appointment.
Q: I have an appointment for a mammogram or other radiology procedure. What do I do about that?
A: Our Imaging Department is still operating normally and can perform your scheduled tests. As long as you are not ill, you may come to the hospital as scheduled for your test. If you are concerned about coming to the hospital during this time of heightened awareness, we will be happy to reschedule the appointment for you.
Q: What do I do about my physical or occupational therapy appointment?
A: You will receive a phone call prior to scheduled appointments. You will be asked some screening questions about your health status. Based on your answers, you will receive instructions about your scheduled appointment.
Q: Are the visiting specialty doctors still coming to Smith Center?
A: Most of the visiting specialists are coming as scheduled. Some, however, have reduced or eliminated services for the duration of the pandemic response. You will receive instructions by telephone prior to your scheduled appointment.
Q: If you’re still providing all of these services as normal, what should I do about the Governor’s “Stay at Home” order?
A: In general, the Executive Order is intended to strongly encourage everybody to stay at home except for certain necessary functions. Medical appointments are classified as Exempt from the order. You may, as described above, attend appointments as described above. You may also go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, and a few other functions specified in the Order. Otherwise, you should stay at home and practice social distancing.

 

Updated 3/25/2020 at 3:41 p.m. – As of March 23, KDHE has updated its guidelines for 14-day quarantine for travelers to include two new states. Anyone who has traveled to Illinois or New Jersey on or after March 23 should self-quarantine.

Patients who believe they have symptoms of COVID-19 should contact the clinic during business hours or the emergency department on nights and weekends to be screened over the phone prior to coming to the facility. Patients who are asked to come to the facility for testing will be required to follow protocol to prevent the spread of any respiratory illness.

Several contractors and specialists are requesting screening for patients. If needed, patients will be contacted at least 24-hours prior to their scheduled appointment to respond to screening questions. Patients should expect to answer these questions if coming to SCMH for an appointment in the specialty clinic, an MRI or other testing.

Yesterday, Gov. Laura Kelly signed an executive order limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. This replaces the previous order limiting gatherings to 50 people. This decision was based on updated guidance at the national level.

“While none of us wanted to see this Executive Order further limiting the size of gatherings, it is necessary to help slow the spread of the coronavirus within our communities,” Kelly said. “We learn more about this virus every day and we are seeing serious cases in every age group – not just among our seniors. The most effective way we can slow down the spread is to stay home and practice good hygiene techniques.”

Earlier this month, SCMH closed the salad bar at Hometown Cafe to comply with the order. On Saturday, following local encouragement to close public dining spaces, Hometown Cafe closed its dining room. The cafe still serves take-out meals to the public and will continue to provide Meals on Wheels to those who need it.

There are no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Smith County. Patient test results are not immediately known. Unless there are other issues that require hospitalization, patients will be instructed to go home and stay home for 14 days. 80% of people with Coronavirus will have mild to moderate symptoms and will recover safely at home. Test results come from the testing laboratory to the facility and will be reported to KDHE. SCMH is responsible for notifying the patient and the county health department. Information submitted to public health agencies will simply be positive or negative, the patient’s name and other personal information will not be shared.

 

Updated 3/19/2020 at 4:05 p.m. – KDHE has made some additional changes to its guidelines based on new and evolving information about COVID-19 in Kansas.

Travel to Florida was added to the list of mandates for quarantine and isolation of travelers. This is in addition to Washington, New York and California as well as four counties in Colorado. Those who have recently returned from cruises should also follow these same guidelines. Travel must have occurred on or after March 15.

KDHE has also updated its criteria for testing. Our staff is aware of the changes and will use the new criteria for screening patients when they call to inquire about testing for COVID-19. These guidelines are created to ensure that facilities and labs can prioritize resources for the sickest patients. Patients who do not meet the entire list of criteria should still practice good judgment and stay home if recommended. As a reminder, the majority of people who have coronavirus will recover at home and never be hospitalized.

Symptoms alone are not enough to cause concern. Patients must also have traveled and/or been in close contact with an infected person. Close contact does not mean “on a plane” or “in the same building.” Close contact is defined as being within six feet for a prolonged period (10 minutes or longer) and having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (for example, being coughed on). Similarly, travel alone is not enough information to warrant a test. A person must have traveled and also have symptoms before tests will be done. However, practicing self-quarantine protocol will help prevent further spread of the virus should symptoms develop later.

As a reminder, common sense is the best defense whether you have been asked to self-quarantine or not. Please use good hand hygiene, cover coughs, stay home if ill, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings. These practices will not only slow the spread but could help keep you and your loved ones away from the virus altogether.

 

Updated 3/17/2020 at 7:18 p.m. – As a reminder, if you have traveled internationally or within the U.S. to one of the areas that is affected by COVID-19, have been on a cruise or have been instructed by a public health official to stay home, please practice self-quarantine. If, in addition to recent travel, you have also developed symptoms of respiratory illness, please call your primary care provider to discuss your symptoms and make a decision about testing. Please do not show up at the hospital or clinic without calling first. Most people who get coronavirus can recover at home without hospitalization. Your provider will work with you to resolve your specific needs.

Visitor Restrictions
SCMH is issuing a limited visitor policy. Patients will be allowed one visitor. Visitors will be screened prior to being escorted to see a patient. Anyone who does not feel well has a fever or other symptoms of illness will not be allowed access to the inpatient area. Our guidelines for visitors are below:

  • Wash your hand before entering a room and prior to leaving the facility. Sinks and hand sanitizers are available throughout the building.
  • Do not visit if you are ill or have signs/symptoms of the flu (cough, fever, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue).
  • Anyone with a compromised immune system or pulmonary complication should not visit unless absolutely necessary.
  • If you have flu-like symptoms you will be given a face mask and asked to leave the facility.
  • Emergency Room: Only 1 non-sick, immediate family member allowed per patient.

Foodservice Changes
Following the executive order from Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday, Hometown Cafe will no longer open its salad bar. Hometown Cafe is still open and will continue to monitor recommendations from KDHE and the governor.

 

Updated 3/16/2020 at 12:30 p.m. – Governor Laura Kelly today announced her recommendation to close all public schools for the upcoming week to allow administrators and teachers to develop a strategic plan moving forward. At the direction of the Governor, the Kansas State Board of Education formed a team tasked with addressing key concerns.

“We take this pandemic and our preparedness seriously,” Kelly said. “One of these areas of particular concern is our K-12 schools, where our children, parents and staff come together in one place. Our schools form the cornerstones of our communities. It is because of this that we need to ensure that schools are prepared to face the COVID-19 challenge.

When classes resume, parents can be assured their children will continue to receive the same high-quality, world-class education Kansas is known for,” Kelly said.

The Kansas State Board of Education has formed a team of experts, many of whom are former Teachers of the Year, to build a comprehensive plan to address the challenges that schools are facing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let me remind Kansans once again: while everyone needs to be mindful of what they can do to avoid spreading the virus — namely thorough hand washing, social distancing and avoiding crowds — this is not a time to panic,” Kelly said. “It is a time to be aware of the need to be very careful. It is a time to be respectful of others who are vulnerable. And, it is a time to use common sense safety measures. This remains the best defense against COVID-19.”

As of March 15, KDHE is recommending 14-day home quarantine for Kansans who have:

  • Traveled to a state with known widespread community transmission (currently California, New York, and Washington state) on or after March 15.
  • Visited Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in Colorado within the past week.
  • Traveled on a cruise ship on or after March 15.
  • People who have previously been told by Public Health to quarantine because of their cruise ship travel should finish out their quarantine.
  • Traveled internationally on or after March 15.
  • People who have previously been told by Public Health to quarantine because of their international travel should finish out their quarantine.
  • Received notification from public health officials (state or local) that you are a close contact of a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19. You should quarantine at home for 14 days since your last contact with the case. (A close contact is defined as someone who has been closer than 6 feet for more than 10 minutes while the patient is symptomatic.)

“One thing we want to stress is that having contact with someone who may have been exposed to someone who may be a COVID-19 case is not a reason to worry or quarantine yourself. Public health officials will notify you if you are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19,” said Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary.

KDHE is providing ongoing updates and guidelines for the public at http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus.

 

Updated 3/15/2020 at 2:49 p.m. – A sixth person was added to Kansas’ presumptive positive list on Friday. The man from Butler County had traveled out of the country and is currently in isolation. Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary, addressed the update in a press release.

“Kansans should remain vigilant,” Norman said. “It’s important to live your lives, but it’s also important to take basic precautions like exercising good hygiene practices. It is up to each of us to do our part.”

People should exercise vigilance when attending large public gatherings, particularly those people over age 60 and those with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions.

If you have symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath and believe you may have had contact or have had contact with someone with a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider.

KDHE is providing ongoing updates and guidelines for the public at http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus.

 

Updated 3/13/2020 at 6:51 a.m. – Late Thursday an update to Kansas coronavirus cases was increased from one to four and Kansas reported it’s first death due to coronavirus.

The death was a man who was living in a long term care facility in Wyandotte County and had additional health complications.

Three men who recently returned from a conference in Florida have been tested and have been confirmed presumptive positive. The men showed symptoms shortly after returning to the state and were immediately placed on isolation protocol.

In a press conference, Gov. Laura Kelly and KDHE Secretary, Dr. Lee Norman, reminded Kansans that these new cases are not due to person-to-person contact within the state. Kelly also reminded listeners that common sense practices such as hand-washing, covering coughs and staying away from the public if ill are the best defense against the virus and recommended social distancing.

 

Original Story 3/12/2020

SMITH CENTER, Kan. – Smith County Memorial Hospital is taking an active approach to the coronavirus outbreak. While there are no cases in Smith County, the hospital medical staff and administration are monitoring new information daily.

“We are taking the virus seriously and have plans ready to activate should Smith County or one of our neighboring counties be affected,” said Allen Van Driel, CEO at SMCH. “The best course of action for the public is to practice good hand hygiene, disinfect surfaces in your home and workplace and stay home if you feel sick.”

There is only one known case of coronavirus in Kansas. It is being monitored by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The department is updating all Kansas health facilities daily on any changes to the number of persons under investigation (PUIs) as well as any positive test results.

“The current threat of exposure in Smith County is very low,” Van Driel said. “KDHE has put a very sound statewide plan into place and is communicating well with all hospitals, clinics and healthcare facilities to keep everyone up-to-date with daily changes and numbers. Our communities should feel very safe.”

If a person suspects they have been exposed to coronavirus, they should contact their provider for further instruction. Most cases, even PUIs, can be managed without hospitalization, however, patients should expect to follow a protocol for testing and isolation if they suspect they have been exposed.

In order to meet cleanliness guidelines, the environmental services staff at SCMH has special processes and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting inpatient areas and exam rooms that have been exposed to viruses such as influenza and coronavirus.

“Our team does a fantastic job at keeping SCMH above standards for cleanliness and have been closely monitoring their work since the beginning of flu season,” Van Driel said.

This does not mean that visitors will be able to access every part of the facility. Visitors are asked to check in at the front desk and will be escorted to patient rooms by a member of the nursing staff. This precaution has been in place since early winter as a way to prevent the spread of influenza to or from patients and the public.

Coronavirus has similar symptoms to the cold and influenza. The virus is very similar to other air-borne illnesses and the defense against it is the same. Like influenza, coronavirus is a respiratory virus that can mean fever, coughing, runny or stuffy nose and fatigue.

“Common sense such as staying away from other people if you are ill, covering coughs or sneezes and washing your hands frequently will help stop the spread coronavirus, influenza and the common cold,” Van Driel said. “We can’t stress enough how important it is to stay home if you have any of these symptoms.”