COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is prominent in highly populated states and cities right now. Rural facilities, like Greene County Medical Center, have been preparing for a potential outbreak of COVID-19 for several weeks. The medical center and Greene County Public Health continue to work with Greene County Emergency Management, Greene County Ambulance and other health experts in the county in preparation for local COVID-19 cases.
Greene County Public Health’s purpose every day is to work with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and local physicians to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, such as COVID-19, and educate the public about infection prevention.
Although the COVID-19 virus has not severely hit rural areas like Greene County, Christa Simons, chief operating officer at Greene County Medical Center, knows it could. She, along with leaders, providers and team members at the medical center, have been working together the past several weeks in preparation, including initiation of the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS). HICS is a nationwide system t assist healthcare organizations in improving their emergency management planning, response, and recovery capabilities for unplanned and planned events. Within HICS, drills and other preparation occur each year to be ready for emergencies and pandemics.
Simons is the incident commander of HICS, providing daily guidance and communication to all departments of the medical center. “We have a great system of delivering health care at Greene County Medical Center,” Simons said. With all that we are working on and have in place already, I’m confident our health care providers and entire team will do a good job during this pandemic.”
Brandon Hayes, safety and emergency preparedness coordinator at the medical center, prepared the COVID-19 Incident Action Plan. This plan has three main priorities: 1) care for life, safety and health; 2) reduce exposure to staff; and 3) recover.
One of the medical center and public health’s first steps was to begin conducting daily COVID-19 preparation meetings with leaders throughout the facility. These calls began in February once a week at the facility and are now virtual daily meetings for updates and further preparation needs as the situation changes. As a team, and through these calls, strategies have been put in place to help alleviate the potential spread and be prepared for COVID-19 cases.
For the safety of patients, staff and communities the following strategies have been implemented in preparation for COVID-19:
• Visitor and vendor restrictions for the safety of patients and visitors
• All staff and providers undergo screening upon entering the medical center for their shift, including screening questions and a check of body temperature
• Reduction of non-essential surgeries and procedures
• Reduction of non-essential staff and movement to remote working where appropriate in support roles
• Personal protective equipment (PPE) inventory and management discussed daily, including identifying substitutes and alternative supply sources
• PPE skills training and practice is ongoing
• In the Family Medicine Clinic, well visit appointments have been established from 7 am to noon and ill visit appointments from 1 to 5 pm
• Regular daily participation in IDPH, Centers for Disease Control, UnityPoint Health-Des Moines, and other educational and preparedness COVID-19 webinars by leaders and staff
• Surge, triage, and capacity plans are being reviewed and updated daily for potential surge of COVID-19 patients
• Dissemination of information and education for staff and community members such as isolation guidelines and social distancing information continues daily
Greene County Medical Center and Greene County Public Health are actively preparing for COVID-19 and want to remind all members of the community to stay home, practice social distancing and wash their hands to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Please remember to call ahead to your provider, Greene County Family Medicine Clinic or the emergency department before arriving. This helps prevent the spread of the virus to our medical staff who needs to start healthy to take care of our community members. Your help is greatly appreciated in order to help us be “Always Here, Always Caring.”
Persons who want more information about COVID-19 can visit gcmchealth.com, IDPH.Iowa.gov, or coronavirus.iowa.gov