“Our region has been successful in abiding by social distancing and stay-at-home orders, resulting in fewer positive cases of COVID-19 than earlier projections suggested were possible,” said Shawn McCoy, CEO, Deaconess Health System. “We had shifted much of our operational focus to preparing for a large surge in COVID-19 patients. But because our community stepped up and helped keep COVID-19 cases low, we are now able to safely increase in-person and elective care earlier than in many areas of the state and country. We don’t want patients to have to wait for care any longer than necessary.”
Indiana Governor Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-22, issued yesterday, encourages ‘clinically-indicated procedures meant to diagnose, screen and treat medical conditions that have the potential for short-term or long-term morbidity and/or mortality.’
“We are able and ready to safely provide care for our patients, and people who need care should not hesitate to come in,” said Dr. James Porter, President, Deaconess Health System. “We have strong protocols for identifying patients with COVID-19 symptoms, and then providing evaluation and care for those individuals in separate units and facilities. COVID-19 may be a new virus, but caring for patients with communicable diseases is not new to us. We are experts at dealing with communicable diseases and have well-established processes and procedures in place to assure the safety of our patients and staff.”
Many COVID-19-related processes, such as screenings at entrances, limiting visitors, careful usage of PPE (personal protective equipment), and utilizing dedicated departments and care sites for patients with COVID-19 symptoms, will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
“All of these efforts have helped Deaconess hospitals and outpatient clinics continue to be a safe place to both give and receive care,” said Dr. James Porter, President, Deaconess Health System. “At this time, no employees have contracted COVID-19 as a result of providing patient care. The precautions we have taken mean we are as safe—if not safer—than other public places.”
However, because there is still risk of COVID-19 in the local community and beyond, precautions recommended by the CDC, including social distancing, frequent hand washing, and wearing masks in public places, should all continue to help keep COVID-19 numbers low in this region.
As with other public places, universal masking will be ongoing for all providers, staff, patients and visitors for the foreseeable future. Patients and visitors entering Deaconess facilities should wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose.
“These measures are part of our ‘new normal,’ everywhere we go, until breakthroughs in vaccination or treatment allow otherwise,” said Dr. Porter.
Below are additional guidelines and protocols that will continue at Deaconess outpatient clinics and hospitals:
- Video visits or telephone consults will be used for care and consult whenever appropriate. Many patients have recently used telehealth services for the first time, and feedback has been very positive. Where possible and appropriate, telehealth visits remain the preferred means of receiving care as a way to limit the need for patients to leave their homes.
- Screenings at all entrances for fever and other COVID-19 symptoms will be ongoing. This screening helps protect patients and staff by routing “high risk” patients to separate dedicated care locations, freeing up all other Deaconess offices and facilities to provide timely and safe care for non-respiratory patients.
- Patients with symptoms of COVID-19 should continue to use the nurse triage line, 812-450-6555, as well as the schedule-ahead Respiratory Immediate Care services detailed at deaconess.com/urgentcare.
- Increased cleaning and disinfection will continue in patient and public areas.
- Outpatients should come to appointments alone, unless a caregiver is necessary due to minor status or any disability, mental capacity or other related needs. In those cases, only one person should accompany the patient.
- When possible, someone providing physical assistance should wait in their vehicle. This helper can be notified by call or text when the patient is ready to leave.
These guidelines and protocols will continue to be assessed based upon the activity of COVID-19 in the community and local region, any changes in PPE availability, and other factors that could affect patient and staff safety.