DUBOIS – In its ongoing effort to keep the community informed about COVID-19, Penn Highland’s Healthcare held a second teleconference Tuesday to talk about the healthcare system’s response to the coronavirus.
Mark Norman, chief operations officer, first thanked the employees for their hard work preparing for the virus to hit the area, and also thanked the community for continuing donations.
Three weeks ago, PHH implemented a task force headed by Dr. Shaun Sheehan with safety as a top priority.
Recently, employees were instructed in new guidelines for personal protective equipment, often referred to as PPE.
Other measures include: visitor restrictions to hospitals, single-point of entry at sites and verbal and temperature screenings for visitors and staff, restricting access to some facilities, cancelling elective surgeries when possible, cancelling support group meetings and moving meetings to teleconferencing.
All hospitals, Q-care facilities and doctor’s offices are open, Norman said.
PHH is now making use of technology with My Doc Now through the My Help Now app for virtual doctor visits. The app is available for iPhone and Android users.
He said another new effort at some facilities is parking lot waiting areas. This allows those with appointments to wait in their cars and when the provider is ready to see them, they receive a call, limiting the number of people in waiting rooms.
Moving on to the current status of things, Sheehan noted that Pennsylvania currently has 4,843 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, with 63 deaths related to the virus.
Locally there are four confirmed cases in Clearfield County, but Sheehan stressed that those are only the ones they know about and that it is possible for someone to have it and have not been tested or even seen by a doctor.
Furthermore, Sheehan said it can take as many as 14 days for symptoms to appear, and an individual could be carrying the virus and not know about it, transmitting it to others, which is why following the guidelines set out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is vital.
Sheehan said that none of the confirmed cases in the county are currently at PHH hospitals, and DuBois has a unit dedicated for severe cases of COVID-19 ready.
Sheehan said that 165 tests have been done through the Penn Highlands system and, with the tests now being sent to Pittsburgh, the turn-around for results is two to three days.
Sheehan said the reason only certain people are being tested is due to the number of test kits available. Because of this, the CDC has set forth guidelines for when someone should be tested.
Sheehan said there is hope that a quick test will soon be available and adequate quantities will be sent out, but the priority is for the hardest hit areas first.
Sheehan and Norman addressed two of the biggest concerns, namely complacency and traffic from Interstate 80.
It was noted that many people have been very complacent about the virus and are not being careful about hand washing, keeping distance and other CDC guidelines.
Sheehan emphasized this is a very serious virus and can be life-threatening, adding that those who have experienced it have said it felt like the worst influenza of their lives, and for those with compromised immune systems, it can be deadly.
The concern with I-80 is that travelers from heavily-impacted areas such as New York could travel through, and stop, in the local area. Again, Sheehan said it is vital to assume that anyone could have the virus and to proceed accordingly.
Penn Highlands Healthcare is prepared with staffing, supplies and training, and more supplies are being brought in, “You can never really have enough supplies,” Sheehan said. There are also 30 intensive care unit beds with the ability to go to 90, if needed.