Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health COVID-19 Update – March 16, 2020

– Hi, this is Joanne Conroy, and it’s Monday, March 16th. Many of you may be aware that we have started to
delay elective procedures here at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and across Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health. There are two specific
reasons why we are doing this. The first is to preserve important PPE, which is personal protective equipment. We wanna make sure we
have an adequate supply if we see a surge of
patients who are positive or presumptively positive for COVID-19. These patients need to be cared for in an environment that
not only protects them but protects all the caregivers who are working very hard
to return them to health. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health is proactively reaching out to patients who have elective procedures
that will be delayed. Any patient not receiving a
call about their procedure should arrive as scheduled. There are some procedures
that are not elective that are urgent or
time-sensitive procedures where delaying would result
in adverse patient outcome. However, all of our hospitals are open and all of our outpatient appointments, urgent and emergency procedures continue. The second concern is
appropriate staffing. It’s not a surprise, since many of our healthcare workers have school-aged children, when schools close across the state, they need time to make arrangements to care for those children during the day when they’re at work. We anticipated that schools would close as this is an important
part of social distancing and stopping the transmission of the virus through communities. It is something, however, that we as an organization
have to make sure that we have both strategies and tactics to make sure that when our
employees are here working, they’re 100% present and not worried about who’s
caring for their children. Let’s talk a little bit
about screening protocols. If you come to Dartmouth-Hitchcock or any of our facilities in
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, you will be asked several questions. This is just to inform the
people that are caring for you whether or not you should
continue with your visit, and if so, should you wear a mask? It’s just a normal precaution so we can keep the institution safe for other patients and our employees. We are currently restricting visitors to one person per patient. This is to protect not only
other patients in the facility and your own loved one, but the other caregivers
in the institution. We do notice that many
people are self-regulating. So people that are elderly and have other health conditions have actually chosen not
to visit their loved ones here in the facility. It’s important for people that
fall into that risk category to actually use
appropriate self-distancing and try to stay out of crowds in order to keep yourself healthy. Let’s talk about testing. It’s been probably the headline across many newspapers across the country. The State is working very
hard to expand testing and testing access
points across the state. Dartmouth-Hitchcock has been working at standing up our own
testing capabilities. Currently, we’re going through a process of validating the test which uses current virus from already-identified
positives in the state. This is a critical component of identifying people in the community that need to quarantine for 14 days. This will help slow the dissemination of COVID-19 across the community. Let’s talk about social distancing. Social distancing means staying more than six feet away from other people, avoiding crowded areas, trying to spend more
time within your own home rather than out at
stores or at restaurants. It also means avoiding
handshakes, avoiding hugs, and being very careful
with the contact you have, not only with strangers but certainly with your own family. Business and community
members have reached out to me for advice on how to use social distancing as well as appropriate questions to make sure that their facilities actually remain safe for their customers as well as their employees. I would direct people to dh.org and you click on the
image of the coronavirus and you will see all of our videos and you’ll see all of our recommendations that we have for people in the community as well as our colleagues
in the business community. I’d encourage you, however, to inquire whether or not people have had a recent cold or cough or fever, whether or not they
traveled internationally, and whether or not they’ve had contact with a COVID-19 patient. I think for everybody, this is really a disorienting time. It’s not the first time that the U.S. has actually had to deal
with something that was, there was no playbook for. In fact, the American
military has a term for this called VUCA, V-U-C-A. And the acronym stands for V, which is volatile, meaning that things can change quickly. U, which means uncertain, that there’s no historical precedent for understanding what the future or what the path forward
looks like for this incident. C, which means complex, and there are many variables that will actually effect the environment. And A, which means ambiguous, meaning there’s not a
lot of black and white, there’s just a lot of gray, and you have to make decisions sometimes in a gray situation. Well, what does this mean for us? Number one, we have to
think both tactically, which is address the issues
we need to address currently, but we also have to think strategically. What’s gonna happen six weeks, eight weeks, 12 weeks from now and how can we actually
restore normal operations at that time period? And what are the things that we’re gonna have to
attend to in the community that we really haven’t anticipated because we’ve never seen it before? We have a group of people
in Incident Command that’s connected to leadership that’s trying to consider not only how do we address the urgent but how do we think about the future? I wanna remind everybody it’s really important to
take care of yourself. We need you strong and well-rested if you’re delivering care
at any of our facilities. We need you healthy and
aware of social distancing and how to keep your friends safe for any member of the community. And we need you to remain kind
of confident and optimistic. Remember, there are so many things that we as a community can do
for others to help right now. That means, number one,
washing your hands. Number two, thinking
about social distancing. Number three, reaching out to elderly people in your community who may be afraid to go to the supermarket or go to areas where there are
significant numbers of people to get things that they absolutely need, either medical supplies and/or food. What we’re dealing with is temporary and the path of these pandemics indicate that life will get
back to normal in the future. However, it’s remembering to stay healthy and energized and present for the people that need you in your home and the people that need your support when you’re at work. We wanna remind everybody that if you have symptoms,
however, contact your PCP. Many of your primary care providers wanna talk to you over the phone first to assess your symptoms and then they will direct you to an appropriate testing facility where you will be able to be tested. So I wanna thank all of you. I know this is a disorienting
time for many of you, but be kind to yourself, appreciate your families, and support your communities. Thank you.