Laura Walczak, president of SSM Health St. Clare Hospital-Baraboo, said the goal of the hospital is to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 as it makes its way into Sauk County.
“Our primary concern is to ensure the safety of the community, our patients and our staff,” Walczak said.
The facility has consistent emergency management plans and implemented an incident command Jan. 26 upon first learning about the coronavirus concerns, Walczak said. They work with both the Sauk County Health Department and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, following their guidelines at the hospital.
As of Tuesday, the hospital postponed all non-urgent visits and procedures, Walczak said.
“This is to contain the healthy people outside of the hospital,” she said. “We want to make sure you are aware we are prepared to meet your needs. We do have our plans in place.”
They hope to maintain that goal through telehealth communications, where patients can talk to a doctor about their symptoms from the safety of their home through an online service through their ssmhealth.com website. Those without internet access can call Dean on Call Nurses at 1-800-576-8773.
SSM Health Public Relations Liaison Kathryn Scott said Tuesday the aim of the online visits is not just to keep people in the hospital safe from possible carriers entering the building, but also for those who may need to see a doctor for an important reason. If someone needs to receive treatment for an ear infection or a urinary tract infection, the online diagnosis and treatment advice can be given for $25.
Those who may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are being encouraged to use the service as well as a way to keep the facility as clean and as safe as possible. SSM Health did not have plans to implement walk-up or drive-in tests for the coronavirus, she said.
Visitations were also limited to one person each day at the hospital. Meadows Care Center, which houses elderly residents, had already been shut down to visitors the week before.
Scott noted in an email Thursday that just before the announcement in which Sauk County confirmed an active COVID-19 case was present in the county, the hospital had instituted visitor screenings.
Organizers aim to use the process to keep out people who may have symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Visitors now have to answer basic health screening questions, which include an inquiry over whether they may have had any possible coronavirus exposure. They also have to thoroughly wash their hands before entering.
If a visitor or a patient has a fever, shows signs of severe respiratory problems and likely had been exposed to COVID-19, they would have to immediately put on a mask and be isolated from the public.
“We believe that these steps are in the best interest of patients, staff and the community during this challenging period,” Scott wrote. “The COVID-19 outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation, and we want to exercise an abundance of caution to keep everyone as safe as possible.”
Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.
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