Boundary Community Hospital and COVID-19

by Preston Becker
| March 19, 2020 1:00 AM

Given the current circumstances facing the world today, I felt it was important to reassure Boundary County residents that your local community hospital is prepared if we are needed. Boundary Community Hospital, Extended Care Facility (Nursing Home), and Boundary Community Clinics’ priority is the safety of our patients, their families, our staff and our community.

These are some steps we have been taking to ensure the safety of all.

Our staff are prepared — we have annual training, drills and protocols in place for handling pandemics and infectious diseases. We have daily meetings with all departments to discuss any issues. Chinna McKechnie, RN is our Infection Prevention and Control Director and she is doing an outstanding job ensuring that all staff are properly trained and willing to care for any COVID-19 patients.

While some items are in short supply for ordering, we currently have the supplies we need and have been working on contingency plans to keep everyone safe.

Our nursing staff are managing visitor access and movement within the facility (Acute, ED, and ECF). Our Extended Care Facility and Hospital Acute Care are performing extra screening for visitors and volunteers. As of March 13, all non-essential visitors are restricted at this time. Please contact the facility by phone 208-267-3141 if you need to reach the department manager regarding a specific patient. Call the resident you want to visit instead of coming in person.

We continue to network with Panhandle Health Department, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Northwest Hospital Alliance, Boundary County Emergency Management Public Information Officer (PIO), Boundary Ambulance, and Boundary County School District.

Signs and symptoms for Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19) include respiratory symptoms and fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and sometimes death. High-risk patients for severe coronavirus disease are older and have comorbidities (other health issues).

Remember to stay home and call public health, or your healthcare provider directly, if you experience any of these symptoms. It is best for our healthcare providers to treat you over the phone. Additionally, the Emergency Department is not the treatment of choice for COVID-19, and should not be utilized unless your symptoms become severe or emergent.

If you have respiratory symptoms and need emergent care, please call ahead to the Emergency Department prior to arrival 208-267-3141 ext 4326. You may be directed to stay in your car and the nurse will come out to you to triage prior to entering the facility.

Testing at Boundary Community Hospital:

If you are concerned, call your provider first. In most cases, they will advise you on the appropriate response. As of March 17, testing for COVID-19 is still very limited. Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (IBL) will accept specimens for testing on hospitalized patients and specimens individually determined by the Panhandle Health Department (PHD) to be high priority. Providers must get approval by PHD before shipping any specimens. Contact your provider if you are symptomatic and have traveled, or potentially been exposed to somebody with COVID-19. There are other commercial laboratories available that they can utilize.

On an additional note, it is important that we maintain a healthy blood supply for our facility.

“In these difficult times, giving blood is something healthy individuals can do to help the sick. The only source for blood—literally in many hospital procedures, the source of life—is another human being,” said Dr. Ralph Vassallo, Vitalant’s chief medical and scientific officer. “We need people to donate blood today, while following guidance from the CDC and other agencies.”

We encourage our community to participate in the local Vitalant blood drive on March 21 at Safeway. It is absolutely critical to avoiding another public health crisis: not having enough blood to meet basic patient needs.

As of March 17, there are seven confirmed cases in the state of Idaho. Our own Infection Prevention and Control Director, Chinna McKechnie, is staying on top of the information and guidance in order to be prepared as a front-line hospital organization. Our top priority is to protect our community and staff in the event of a potential outbreak and we are prepared to do just that.

Stay informed: The Panhandle Health District has a hotline dedicated to assisting the public. If you have any questions about coronavirus or think you may be displaying symptoms, call 877-415-5225 or visit their website: panhandlehealth district.org.